A few Twin Cities suburbs are saying that mowing less — rather than a monthlong mowing moratorium — is the way to go as spring and summer return to Minnesota.

Over the last three years, metro cities from Edina to West St. Paul have encouraged residents to leave lawns completely unshorn for the month of May, allowing plants such as clover and dandelions to bloom.

An international movement that started five years ago in the United Kingdom, the "No Mow May" effort provides food for bees and other pollinators at a time when they're coming out of hibernation but little food is available, advocates say. Taller grass also can shelter bees and butterflies.

But now some suburbs — including Rosemount, Roseville, New Brighton and Columbia Heights — along with pro-pollinator organizations, are pushing back, citing complaints about unkempt lawns and emerging research that suggests there are better ways to help pollinators thrive.

They're also promoting new slogans, such as "Mow Less May" and "Less Mow May." The University of Minnesota Extension is taking the laid-back philosophy further, recommending a "Slow Mow Summer."

"There were definitely some mixed feelings [about 'No Mow May']," said Lee Stoffel, Rosemount's spokeswoman. "Some people don't want to see their neighbors having a long lawn."

Rosemount promoted "No Mow May" for two years, with about 275 households signing up in 2022, its first year. The city received a few complaints, she said, but the response was positive overall. Still, the city switched to "Mow Less May" this year because officials began looking at the latest research.

Noelle Bakken, Roseville's sustainability specialist, said the recommendation to adopt "Less Mow May" for the first time last year came from the City Council.

"Some of the research actually supports doing a couple of mows throughout the month because it can help things like clover actually re-bloom," Bakken said. "It's kind of like deadheading flowers."

Bakken said Roseville's "Less Mow May" is a "little more forgiving" and addresses a common complaint that resuming mowing in June is harder with a month's worth of overgrown grass.

Whichever slogan they choose, some cities offer residents yard signs to let their neighbors know they're participating in an environmental program and not just neglecting to mow. Others prompt participants to sign up with the city so the city knows who they are, too.

"Slow Mow Summer" promoters and city officials say the concept behind the new catchphrases is to educate people on the many things they can do to make life easier for bees, butterflies, flies and beetles.

For New Brighton, "Mow Less May" is a chance to highlight all the ways residents can be good environmental stewards, from mowing less often to creating rain gardens and composting, said Devin Massopust, New Brighton's city manager.

"This falls in line with a much, much broader approach," he said, adding that the city began "No Mow May" in 2022, relaxing code enforcement on lawns.

Rosemount is using "Mow Less May" as a jumping off point to motivate residents to mow less, leave leaves on the grass until Memorial Day, plant native plants, and water and fertilize only as needed, Stoffel said.

"No Mow May" wasn't meant to be taken literally, said Elaine Evans, a University of Minnesota Extension educator and Department of Entomology researcher, who said not mowing for a whole month can actually be bad for your lawn.

"It sometimes might not be the best for the pollinators, either," said Evans, who works at the Bee Lab on the university's St. Paul campus.

There are lots of reasons for mowing less but not abstaining, and for extending the effort to spring, summer and even fall, she said.

Bees need food beyond the month of May, and there's no point in preserving dandelions after they flower. And turf grass can be stressed if you let it get too high, she said.

That's why the Bee Lab is promoting "Slow Mow Summer" in an effort to change people's thoughts about lawns in general. Evans wants lawns to be reimagined as a place that can provide flowers for bees. She hopes people begin to take other small steps toward helping bees by planting flower gardens with native plants, checking into seed mixes for lawns that create pollinator havens and, as a final step, planting flower gardens instead of turf grass.

Matthew Shepherd, director of outreach and education for the Xerces Society, a nonprofit that advocates for protecting the natural world through saving invertebrates such as insects, said his organization adopted the Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs in 2018 to encourage municipalities and college campuses to get involved in helping pollinators.

He likes how people are adapting "No Mow May" to a more moderate, holistic approach that works for them.

"Instead of having ... idealized, perfect green swaths, we have something that can support much more diversity and provides benefit to bees all through the season," he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the origin of the Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs. The Xerces Society adopted the programs from an existing nonprofit in 2018.