Forget Fall Chores for Winter’s Foragers and Scavengers

Stack of sticks covered in snow

A brush pile creates winter habitat.

If you didn’t complete all your yard cleanup chores before the snow fell, you’ll be relieved to know that your unfinished chores provide a valuable source of food and habitat for our winter foragers, gatherers and scavengers.

Messy unraked leaves? In the fall, beneficial insects such as great spangled fritillary and wooly bear caterpillars will have tucked themselves into fallen leaves for hibernation. Winter birds and small mammals root through those neglected leaves looking for a high-energy, protein-rich caterpillar snack.

Tiny invertebrates, like springtails, feed on leaves and other decaying material. They break it down into smaller pieces so microscopic organisms, like bacteria and fungi, can convert it into beneficial chemicals and minerals that feed soil and plants.

Long-forgotten brush pile?  Brush piles host a variety of beneficial insects, such as beetle larvae, that feed on the decaying wood and break it down into valuable organic matter for your yard.

If you don’t like the look of a pile of brush, move it behind a shed or in the back corner to create a hidden, cozy shelter for birds. They might also get lucky and find a few insects to eat during the lean winter months.

Untrimmed wildflowers and grasses? Perfect! The seeds of native plants such as goldenrods, asters and black-eyed susan are a great find for juncos, goldfinches and chickadees.

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