Robotic Mowers: Aye or Naw?

There are some people that get great pleasure out of mowing a lawn and others for whom it is a necessary chore. Personally I quite like longer grass but even with that pathways have to be cut.

This is National Gardening Week ( National Gardening Week 2021) and with the lighter nights there’s certainly more time to potter about in the garden and if the weather holds, sit out of an evening.

To enjoy those relaxing evenings in the garden it is become increasing popular to purchase a robotic mower. These are expensive machines but for folk with mobility problems it is a helpful device. You can read more about them here: Gardeners World

Recent research has highlighted a problem with an unintended devastating consequence of using robotic mowers – the impact on wildlife. This was written about by Hugh Warwick in his update of a petition ‘Help save Britain’s hedgehogs with ‘hedgehog highways’

Image credit Fiona Driver

When hedgehogs encounter a threat they curl up into a tight ball.

“So what does a hedgehog do when, snuffling across a lawn for worms, it meets a robotic mower? Most wildlife will run/fly away if it can. But the hedgehog?” Hugh Warwick

And he goes on to quote from the research by Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen on what happens when the Robotic Mower encounters a hedgehog ( she used dead ones in the study).

Dr Rasmussen said:

“I was very surprised to discover how differently the robotic lawn mowers performed in our tests. It was devastating to witness how some models badly mutilated the dead hedgehogs. But at the same time, other models did quite well, and did not seem to harm the hedgehogs.

 “All robotic lawn mowers tested had to physically interact with the hedgehog to detect it. This was not the outcome I had hoped for, as the optimal scenario would be that the robotic lawn mower was able to detect the hedgehog in advance and change direction.”

The research paper Wildlife Conservation at a Garden Level: The Effect of Robotic Lawn Mowers on European Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) is available on open access.

Hugh Warwick goes on to point out that not just hedgehogs may be affected but other garden wildlife. He comments:

” Toads and slow worms out at night would be vulnerable, as would baby birds during the day.”

Something to think about as we approach Hedgehog Awareness Week which runs from 2nd to 8th of May

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. I suspect that, once the novelty’s worn off, a lot of these will end up rusting in sheds.

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