(WETM) — Instead of bagging and throwing away the leaves that land in your yard during the fall, you might want to keep them around to help wildlife.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is encouraging people to help insects make it through the winter by leaving some leaves for them to hide in and snack on. According to the Xerces Society, some insects rely on fallen leaves for warmth, protection, and food. Moth and butterfly caterpillars use leaf piles for warmth and protection from predators, and some insect species, like stick bugs and red-banded hairstreak butterflies, lay their eggs in leaves. Freshly hatched caterpillars then make fallen leaves their first meals.
Leaving fallen leaves in your yard helps keep these pollinators alive. Leaving too many leaves in your yard can kill grass, though, so the Xerces Society recommends moving fallen leaves to garden beds, around tree bases, or other designated areas. Keeping leaves in designated areas has the bonus of boosting the soil’s nutrition and stopping weeds from growing.
Whole leaves provide the best protection for insects and their eggs, so leaves should be raked or blown instead of shredded with a mower.
If you do keep some leaves around to help the bugs and want to clean them up in the spring, make sure you wait until it isn’t cold out anymore. The Xerces Society doesn’t give an exact date for when it’s okay to start picking up your old leaves, but it does recommend waiting until after the last frost. To make sure all of our little pollinator friends are safe from late-season frosts, it’s probably a good idea to wait until the end of May to get rid of the previous fall’s old leaves.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve invertebrates and their habitats. To learn more about the work this organization does and how you can help with invertebrate conservation, visit the Xerces Society’s website.