Spring fever is upon us! These warm, sunny days are just so wonderful, it makes any gardener want to get out in their garden and landscape. But with concerns about bees, other pollinators and beneficial insects at the forefront of many gardener’s minds, it’s important to understand what you can do now – before you clean up the spring garden – to maintain and create good insect habitat.
Insects overwinter in a variety of ways, but these can be broadly grouped as 1) protected in the soil, 2) within leaf litter or other vegetation and 3) above ground on vegetation or other surfaces.
In years past, many gardeners cleaned up all the debris in their gardens, making them clean as a whistle to start the growing season. This often involved cutting down stems from perennials to the ground or as close to the plant crown as possible, removing any leaves that blew into the garden over winter and any dead leaves from last year’s growth.
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But we know some of those dead stems may have overwintering insects inside such as stem-nesting bees. Plus, there are many beneficial insects overwintering in leaf litter or just under the soil surface, so cutting down and discarding all of last year’s stems and leaves can reduce the number of beneficial insects in your garden.
Mary Gardiner, Ohio State University assistant professor of entomology and author of Good Garden Bugs, notes that many insects overwintering in the soil begin to emerge when soil temperatures reach 45 to 50 degrees.