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Remember to Leave the Leaves

Image courtesy of The Xerces Society

By Kristina Lefever

Published in the Ashland Daily Tidings

Originally Posted Oct 29, 2017 at 11:45 AM

Summer has bee-come fall, a most glorious and invigorating season, with brilliant colors, cooler temps and an underlying urgency to get things done. But yet, as nights become longer, we (hopefully) are finding time for a little more sleep and rest. Fall also brings a feeling of melancholy, as we watch our gardens wane, and notice bees and butterflies disappearing from the landscape — they also know it’s time to sleep and rest!

Many beneficial insects, so critical for the food on our table and the natural world around us, live only weeks in the adult stage, the stage we humans most easily recognize and interact with. Although some species hibernate in the adult stage, many species overwinter as eggs, pupae or chrysalises. These fragile life forms must make it through the Winter to be ready to emerge in spring to begin anew the important work of that insect species. If you knew where to look, you would find them in the soil, in hollow plant stalks, attached to leaves and twigs, or nestled under fallen leaves — hidden and safe during the coldest season.

Except. Fall also seems to be time to “clean up” gardens and yards, a time of leaf blowers and rakes and composting. And all of a sudden these invisible but oh-so-invaluable bits of life are blown or swept away, or stuffed into bags or bins.

As strange as it may seem, it’s important to NOT clean up our gardens in the fall. NOT cleaning up the garden helps ensure native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies such as hoverflies, and other beneficial insects have a place to nest and overwinter. NOT cleaning up your garden means there will be plenty of fallen leaves, standing plant stalks, shrubby plants and grasses, and patches of soil in which these insects can find a protected place to hide and transform.

Where else would they go?

I agree with Justin Wheeler of The Xerces Society, who writes: “You gave them flowers and a place to nest. You tended your garden and avoided pesticides. Don’t carry all of that hard work out to the curb. Simply put, when we treat leaves like trash, we’re tossing out the beautiful moths and butterflies that we’ll surely miss and work so very hard to attract.” Read more of Justin's blog here:


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