Wait to clean up yard until temps are 50 degrees

Hollow stems provide perfect winter shelter for native bees such as the one pictured here. Leaving leaf debris and stems in your yard or garden until temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit can increase your local pollinator population, ensuring better gardens and flowers in the summer.

(Posted April 4, 2024)

As the days begin to get warmer, the urge to get outside and do some landscaping becomes stronger. However, this year, pause when you get to the gardens and flowerbeds. Removing dead stems, leaves and other plant debris from your yard can be detrimental to pollinators and other beneficial insects.

The availability of nesting and overwintering habitat is one of the most important factors influencing populations of native bees and other beneficial insects. Some species of native wild bees nest in dead stems, so cutting down and disposing of these stems before the bees emerge in the spring will reduce their population. Dead leaves and other plant debris on the ground provide shelter for beneficial insects like lady beetles, butterflies, moths, fireflies, and ground beetles. Pristinely raked garden beds remove this shelter and reduce their chance for survival.

Diversity is key in providing overwintering habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects. Leaf litter, bare ground, mulch, and grass all provide distinct habitats that allow the overwintering of pollinators and beneficial insects. Waiting until late spring to do yard clean up, when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50s, will give native bees and butterflies enough time to emerge and find shelter elsewhere.

Traditional landscaping practices rarely leave enough natural resources to support pollinators and other wildlife. Artificial nesting options such as bee blocks and bee hotels do not provide as many conservation benefits as natural nesting habitat features. An appropriately managed wildflower planting provides nesting sites, pollen, and nectar for bees, host plants and overwintering habitat for butterflies, and abundant food for songbirds, who need insects to feed their young.

The Madison Soil and Water Conservation District offers a great opportunity to see key pollinator habitat in action annually during the Peak Bloom Bike ride series. The bike tours begin at the Prairie Grass Trailhead, located behind the Madison County Senior Center in London, and stop at several remnant prairie sites that support native wildflowers and grasses and have been here since the last ice age.

There are three Saturday ride dates: May 11, July 13, and Sept. 14, strategically spaced to capture different blooming flowers. All of the rides start at 1 p.m.

The mission of the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District is to enhance and sustain the soil, water, and related natural resources of Madison County through partnerships with others to provide research-based educational programs, technical assistance, and funding to promote a clean local environment.

More information about our services, conserving natural resources, and events is available at www.madisonsoilandwater.com, or call (740) 852-4003 and ask for Broc Sehen, wildlife specialist.

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