Delay Mowing Fields Until After the First Frost

~ Tips for Attracting Pollinators and Wildlife ~


Goldenrod and other fall blooming flowers are valuable late season food sources for many of our pollinators. Not mowing fields or other open areas until after the first killing frost can ensure that these food sources are available to our pollinators as they prepare for winter.

During the late summer and early fall, wildflowers such as goldenrods, thoroughworts, ironweeds, asters, and many others turn roadsides and fields into a pollinator oasis. Several of our butterfly species in the eastern U.S. migrate for the winter and rely on those flowers to provide them with the energy needed for their migration. Other species of butterflies need the nectar to fuel their last mating flights and egg laying activities. Bees rely on the pollen for raising brood and the nectar for fueling the activities of the adults. Honey bees also store some of the nectar as honey to eat during the winter.

However, late summer and early fall are also traditional times for mowing fields and other open areas which eliminates this valuable food source. Simply waiting until after the first killing frost has occurred before mowing those locations will allow pollinators to take advantage of the flowers at a time when they are making their final preparations for winter.




Shannon Trimboli is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. In 2018, her first book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, was published. Shannon also writes a weekly blog called Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. The blog features profiles of pollinators and wildlife, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife, and life on the farm and nursery. You can sign up to have her blog emailed to you.

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2 thoughts on “Delay Mowing Fields Until After the First Frost

  • Midge Krebs

    Thought this might be of interest! Original has the actual # pollinators for each sneeze weed variety. H. autumnal had 169 and Zimbelstern, the cultivar most like the native plant, had 120 or so. It went downhill from there to few at all by the last one on the list.
    There are trial garden reports for native plants and their cultivars.

    Helenium provide a welcome source of nectar and pollen for
    bees and wasps in the late summer months. To determine
    the species and cultivars that attracted the most pollinators,
    Mt. Cuba Center’s Pollinator Watch Team maintained rigorous,
    observational records of the Helenium included in the trial. A
    single plant in each selection was observed for one minute, twice
    weekly, through the growing seasons of 2017 and 2018. The totals
    from these two seasons were averaged to determine the top 15
    most visited Helenium. Helenium autumnale accumulated the
    most pollinator visits (162) with H. ‘Zimbelstern’ following closely
    behind (151). Nine of the ten top-performing Helen’s flowers are
    represented in this list with only Helenium ‘Flammendes Kätchen’
    falling short. While several Helenium were preferred by pollinators,
    the addition of any Helen’s flowers listed here will bring late season
    delight and ecological value to your landscape. This chart shows the
    15 most frequented Helenium cultivars based on data collected and
    averaged between 2017 and 2018. Top-performing cultivars, from a
    horticultural perspective, are indicated with an asterisk (*).
    Best Helenium for Bees & Wasps
    1. H. autumnale *
    2. H. ‘Zimbelstern’ *
    3. H. ‘Kanaria’ *
    4. H. autumnale ‘Can Can’ *
    5. H. ‘Tijuana Brass’ *
    6. H. ‘Kugelsonne’ *
    7. H. ‘Flammenspiel’ *
    8. H. ‘El Dorado’
    9. H. ‘Potter’s Wheel’ *
    10. H. ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’
    11. H. ‘Kupfersprudel’
    12. H. ‘Waltraut’
    13. H. flexuosum (DE ecotype) *
    14. H. ‘Helbro’ (Mardi Gras)
    15. H. ‘Ranchera’