I haven’t done as much with pollinators on the blog this year as I do some years. Some years I feature different pollinators every day for Pollinator Week (in June) or I talk about native plants for pollinators or have some other theme going. I think this year the overwhelming chore of trying to keep things alive in our drought sort of put me off my game.
But as our season winds up here in the northeast, and folks bring out their huge, gas guzzling, ear splitting leaf blowing machines, this is the perfect time to think about pollinators.
Where do they go? They’re not all monarchs, you know, that fly hundreds of miles to hibernate. Lots of them stay right on your property–or they would if you didn’t insist on blowing them to the curb or bagging them up with your leaves.
I am a raker (or I was prior to this year). I will never forget raking my wildlife garden and raking up a lovely 3 foot long snake. Because it was cool, the snake was rather docile, although I didn’t take the time to examine it too closely. I simply took the rake and placed it right back where I found it and stopped raking right that minute! Clearly the snake was using the leaves as cover from birds of prey.
Not everyone is so calm around snakes–I am lucky that they don’t bother me. But that’s just one example of the native wildlife that uses your leaf litter to hibernate.
Not all of us can have large piles of leaf litter on our property. For one thing, the neighbors might object, or the town. But smaller piles in an out of the way corner might work for most of us, particularly if those piles are tucked into a corner of a garden bed.
How is this going to help pollinators? In lots of ways! Native insects and butterflies will use the litter to overwinter. Birds will also use those leaves, come spring, to line their nests. Many birds nest before the trees fully leaf out. The leaves will act as a type of mulch, insulating the ground as well.
Think of the forest ecosystem and the important roles fallen leaves play there. And this fall, find a spot for a small pile of fallen leaves in your yard.