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Winter Pollinators

Winter Pollinators

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As the days start to cool and shorten, many will venture out into the yard to tidy it up a bit. This usually includes raking leaves and cutting back dead or dying plants. Is this the right thing to do for the pollinators that overwinter in the garden?

We think of species of birds and monarch butterflies that migrate for the winter, but many pollinators and wildlife will remain with us. During the winter months, most insects, whether egg, larva, pupa, or adult, will cease development due to unfavorable conditions. Insects seek out protected locations to overwinter regardless of their developmental stage. Leaves that have made their way to the ground can be an excellent place for insects to overwinter. These leaves provide much needed protection especially for many species of moths and butterflies.

Consider leaving a few leaves in garden beds or other areas of your landscape that will provide a protected habitat for pollinators and overwintering animals. When beautiful perennials begin
to decline in the fall, consider leaving them in place. I know that many will go out and remove dead foliage and flower stalks because we want our landscape to be tidy and neat. While this will provide visual appeal, it may not be best for pollinators.

If you have had issues with diseased plants in your landscape, these will need to be removed. The disease organisms overwinter on plant debris and will then pose a problem next year.

Additionally, insect pests can overwinter in plant debris. Removing plant debris not only helps reduce disease it can also aid in the reduction of the number of pests you may encounter in the garden next year.

Embrace the beauty of winter in your landscape by leaving flower stalks, dried leaves, and ornamental grasses. Not only will you aid beneficial pollinators that overwinter in the garden, but it will also give your landscape an added dimension of winter interest. If you have questions about anything in this article, please give me a call at 901-752-1207.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2024!

Photo Credit: Deborah Seiler(Xerxes)

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