You might saunter into your backyard and see just ‘your’ backyard; there’s maybe a patio area, a shed, and a few trees back there and you think to yourself “This is mine and I’ll do whatever I see fit.” If you have a quiet seat and watch a moment you may catch sight of a Downy woodpecker clutched to the side of a tree snag, or a praying mantis posted up, pretending to be a stick in your boxwood, or box turtle chilling out in the liriope at the edge of the driveway. , that relies on that same space to live, feed, breed, and die, contributing back to that micro-ecosystem in every way.
As humans we have the ability to make a huge impact on the environment where we live and thereby have the responsibility to care for it, to consider our larger family, everything from the big buck down to the bumble bee. As the temperature drops and the animals and insects begin to look for homes to nestle in for the winter, there are ways to keep them in mind while we keep up our properties. If we have to remove that tree for whatever reason, there are measures we can take to give back to their habitat. We might even consider leaving that dead tree spar in the far corner of the yard, or a fallen tree that’s out of sight. Although some species leave altogether, whether they migrate for warmer temperatures while others drop an egg sac and then just die, the majority of our little friends can stay put right under our noses. Some critters might use a fallen tree or its debris to make a home, so you could leave that brush pile until you do your spring cleaning. If you happen to remove a tree this winter, you could leave a few logs and branches in an undisturbed area.
The beneficial insects that look after our gardens all year end up using the spent plants to overwinter. They primarily use native plants as nests, burrowing into the hollow of some old flower and plant stems, placing their larvae there to be the next generation of pollinators in your garden. They also rely on the leaves, as my fellow arborist pointed out in a previous post, so you might consider leaving the leaves instead of paying to have them removed. This allows for a space for the beetles, spiders, fireflies, and other insects to seek shelter, as well as a space for the moths to mask their cocoons and chrysalis’ from hungry predators throughout the dark months. Bumble bees make homes in the ground under the leaves, in the loose undisturbed soil, using the leaves as a protective barrier. If you want to move the leaves from an area such as your lawn, try placing them around the base of trees, bushes, shrubs, and woody plants, because the leaves provide all the benefits of mulch but for free!
If we end up destroying the shelters of our larger family, disregarding measures to give back a potential home for the winter, they’ll take that as an invitation to move into our homes. The critters seek warmth the same way we do and will come in through the cracks in the doors, walls, roofs and everywhere you didn’t think about. So if you don’t want to sit next to spiders and roaches at the fireplace while you drink your warm coco, let’s consider our larger family this holiday season and give them the gift of consideration for their homes and habitats.