Mariton: Laying the Foundation for Spring Color

October 20, 2016

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

In the coming weeks, many people will be removing leaves from their yard. This is a good time to remember that a few leaf piles around your yard are beneficial for butterflies and other insects.  Eastern Commas and Mourning Cloak butterflies are two species that overwinter as adults.  These are some of the first butterflies to emerge.  I’ve seen them on mild February days, but they get active in April, and lay eggs for the next generation.

Eastern Comma underside.  See the comma?

Eastern Comma underside. See the comma?

Leaf piles are a favorite place for them to winter, so it is easy to inadvertently destroy these butterflies in a zealous removal of every leaf from the yard. I always leave some banks of leaves along the building foundations and in flower beds.  There are also piles along the wood’s edge of the yard.  These small piles are beneficial to the beds, as well as butterflies, and can be easily removed during the spring yard work.

A Mourning Cloak in April.

An April Mourning Cloak.

Right now the leaves are filling our lives with colors.  So, it is easy to forget how much we yearn for color at the end of winter.  By leaving some leaf piles around your yard you will be providing winter shelter for our earliest butterflies.  This is one instance where being lazy has a nice benefit.