Nature & Wellness

Leave The Leaves

Clearing your lawn of leaves can affect pollinators looking for winter shelters.

There's nothing quite as beautiful as the leaves changing colors as autumn and cooler weather rush in. And then what do we do? We rake them up and bag them to be able to see our (not so green in winter) lawns, of course.

A viral NPR article published this week talks about why you shouldn't do that, though. Their first two points mention the amount of leaves that end up in landfills annually (~8 million tons) and that fallen leaves help the grass. You won't find any front lawns at Serenbe, though. What Serenbe's landscape crew does, and what the article recommends, is to #LeaveTheLeaves and make piles in garden beds to provide winter homes for pollinators.

Why #LeaveTheLeaves? Well, Bee City USA, which provides a framework for communities to conserve native pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat that is rich in a variety of native plants, provides nest sites, and is protected from pesticides, names several reasons, including:

  • Bumble bees queens burrow an inch or two into the earth to hibernate for winter. An extra thick layer of leaves is welcome protection from the elements.
  • Tunnel-nesting solitary bees, such as leafcutter and mason bees, need narrow tunnels or other tiny spaces in dead wood, hollow stems, or brush piles.
  • Red-banded hairstreak butterflies lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves, which become the first food of the caterpillars when they emerge.
  • Woolly bear caterpillars tuck themselves into leaf piles for protection from cold weather.
  • Luna moth caterpillars spin their cocoons in leaves, which fall as trees shed their foliage and lie hidden on the ground.

The practice of Leaving The Leaves, amongst others, has earned Chattahoochee Hills official recognition as a Bee Cit Serenbe's director of landscaping, Thomas Peters, and Serenbe resident Mary Collins-Shepard, are part of the community board to maintain this designation, along with Rodale Institute - whose Southeastern Research Center is in Chatt Hills at Many Fold Farm - the City of Chatt Hills Parks Commission, and Bear Creek Nature Center.

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