Get Rid of Your Leaf Blower and Night Lighting to Help Bugs

David Trammel's picture

I'm sure many here have read that the global insect population has been experiencing a dramatic drop. Sensational new media is dubbing it and "apocalypse", which isn't that far wrong. Insects form the base of the food chain and if we lose too many then most animals like birds and small mammals that depend on insects for food will start dieing off as well.

Two recent independent reports offer something you can do to help.

Light pollution is key 'bringer of insect apocalypse'

Leaf blowers contributing to ‘insect armageddon’ and should be avoided, German government warns

Neither report should be that unthinkable. I have a porch light that I leave on and I'm always seeing insects around it. Probably should install a motion sensor on it to limit the time its on. As for leaf blowers, I never understood the need for something that puts out clouds of exhaust and noise to do something I can do with a rake. Though with everyone using lawn services now, I can see the increase. Add in not using pesticides on your lawn and garden, as well as planting pollinator feeding flowers, can make your home a welcome retreat from the hazards for bugs.

When I talk to the public as part of my local environmental outreach group, I recommend to everyone that they quit raking under shrubs. Leave the dead leaves as mulch to both control weeds (a little) but also to provide firefly habitat.

Light pollution is terrible for fireflies but so is the loss of habitat for their larval stage. The larval fireflies (glowworms) live in the dead leaves and eat slugs.

Teresa from Hershey

David Trammel's picture

I've been slowly trying to change my sister's habits. She no longer rakes her leaves in the Fall but has her lawn care guy just come over in the late Fall and run over them with a mulching lawn mower. Better than bagging them up for the lawn but it doesn't provide any protection for the grass or as you say, insects whose life cycle includes over Wintering in fallen leave.

I should do some research on what other insects, like native bees, need for their cycle. Some I know like wood and brush piles, as do small mammals like rabbits and mice. Once I start installing my raised beds (now probably in 2021) I'll start raking them myself, then putting them into the beds for soil creation. I have a lot of dead wood on the trees, limbs and such, which I plan on breaking up and putting in the bottom of them, for hugelkultur type nutrition.

We always leave extensive circles of dead leaves around every tree and shrub. If you're in the right area (we were in South Carolina) the heavy buildup of duff (the correct term for decades of leaf accumulation) attracted a wide variety of birds, including woodland thrashers.

They would dig through the leaves, tossing them up, in search of creepy-crawlies to eat.
More leaves = more birds.
That might encourage your sister.

Teresa from Hershey

Last year I heard that some butterflies overwinter in leaves and now I’m paranoid about raking. Also there is a blue bird nesting near my front-yard garden (because, silly me, I put up a nesting box), and now I feel like I have to minimize my time there. Definitely not mowing for a while. Fortunately there is plenty to do in the backyard

Blueberry's picture

Blue birds are ok with people being around the nest just stay 15 feet away (5 meters). Have several in my fields for years. I only clean the boxes every 2 years in early spring the birds will be in a tree and watch and will move right back in, if the box is not cleaned and the area inside is to small they will not mate. Watch them in the spring and summer some times will have a second go at breeding the first young one will help feed the babies.