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Remember to Leave the Leaves

“Where do insects and other invertebrates go in the winter? The vast majority ‘overwinter,’ or spend winter, right where they spent all summer — just less active and more hidden.

Many butterflies and moths overwinter as chrysalis or cocoons disguised as dead leaves. Don't blow away their cover.

Photo by Karalyn Lamb

Think twice before you rake, mow, and blow this year. Invertebrates rely on fallen leaves and other organic debris to cover and insulate them from the elements. Whatever your landscape, you can ensure that resources for nests and overwintering habitat are available.”

Your backyard provides a plethora of habitat in the winter, just as it does in the spring if you maintain it correctly! From leaves and hollow stems, to brush piles and soil, pollinators use these habitats to overwinter in.

“Leaving the leaves and other plant debris doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your yard to the wilderness. The leaves don’t need to be left exactly where they fall. You can rake them into garden beds, around tree bases, or into other designated areas. Too many leaves can kill grass, but in soil they can suppress weeds, retain moisture, and boost nutrition.

Avoid shredding leaves with a mower. Raking or blowing (electric) are alternatives that will keep leaves whole for the best cover and protect the insects and eggs already living there.

If you decide you need to clean up the leaves and debris in spring, make sure you wait until late in the season so as not to destroy all the life you’ve worked to protect.”

Check out the Xerces blog on Leave the Leaves and for more resources.

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