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Leave the Leaves to Benefit Wildlife!

By Scott Hoffman Black on 12 November 2020

It is fall again and we have harvested all of our garden produce and are making sure our outside faucets are protected against winter’s freeze. The leaves are changing color and tumbling from the trees—and that means fall cleanup in the yard and garden.

For many people fall cleanup means cutting all the seed heads and stems off the flowers and raking up all of the leaves. A tidy garden and yard are what many people strive to achieve. Everything clipped back, leaves raked and removed, messy piles of branches put in the green bin for pick up. This tidiness may look nice to us, but it is not good for all of the small creatures that live in and around your property.

Out of sight often means out of mind for people and fall is a time when you do not see the bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects that were flitting around your flowers all summer. Where do these insects go when they are not visiting your garden? Some do migrate—like the monarch butterfly, flying south to overwinter in trees in Mexico or along the California coast—but the vast majority spend their entire life in and around your property. Many of our native solitary bees have laid eggs and provisioned nests in soil or in standing dead trees or hollowed out branches where the young are pupating. Bumble bee queens have found areas to overwinter under branches, in rock walls and in other relatively dry, snug places.

Many species rely on fallen leaves for cover and to insulate them from the elements. Depending on the species, butterflies and moths spend the winter as eggs, caterpillars, pupae, or adults. As Justin Wheeler described in our first leave the leaves blog:

Great spangled fritillary and wooly bear caterpillars tuck themselves into a pile of leaves for protection from cold weather and predators. Red-banded hairstreaks lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves, which become the first food of the caterpillars when they emerge. ....Click here to view full article.

Source: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

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