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This fall leave the leaves to help small creatures through the winter

Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 19, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's that time of the year where the leaves are starting to fall. Instead of raking up the leaves, conservationists are urging Nebraskans to leave the leaves. This will help small animals and insects through the winter.

Jennifer Hopwood is a senior pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society. She was able to provide some insight to 3 News Now on why people should do this.

"For little animals like some bees and a lot of different butterflies and moths as well as lady beetles and lacewings, those animals need a place to survive the winter," she said.

And to survive that winter, creatures like the ones Hopwood mentioned rely on leaf litter — Which can also be important for nourishing the soil.

"Lawns can just absorb shredded — tons and tons of shredded leaves," said Hopwood.

A thin layer is all that is needed. Hopwood said people don't have to leave them all over their yard though.

"You know people don't really like to see leaves on lawns, they worry about whether or not it's going to kill that lawn," she said. "So if you are worried about that and you don't want to mulch them into that lawn then scooching them under trees is a great place to store your leaves really."

That's exactly what Hopwood's neighbors Denise Pecha and Ted Kyster do.

"As this tree dumps then there will be lots of [leaves] and we will literally then just start to toss them in this garden," said Pecha.

Everything in their yard is natural to support pollinators, especially through the cold winters.

"Queen bumblebee is the only one that survives over the wintertime and that leaf litter gives them a place to go hide and burrow into the ground," said Kyster.

By the spring all the leaves should be absorbed into the ground.

"The benefits of raking it up in the fall is that's the one time you really have to do the work. After that the soil and the little animals take over and break it down into the soil," said Hopwood.

If someone is new to this, Hopwood recommends starting small by putting some leaves under a tree, shrub or in a garden bed. It's a way that can benefit all come wintertime.

"So we're trying to make the environment better for all involved: bugs, birds, butterflies, bees, humans, all that stuff," said Kyster.

Some yards have more leaves than others so once the leaves fall, whether people decide to mulch or pile them up, wind shouldn't be a problem. Rain and snow will help compact them into the ground.

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