Wait! Stop! Don't Rake Your Leaves Scientists Say!

Categories: Nature

Here's an excuse to use the next time someone asks you to rake the leaves: Science.

The National Wildlife Federation is encouraging people to leave the leaves.

On its website, the NWF says dry, dead leaves are important habitats for all kinds of critters, reports KING.

Butterflies, salamanders, chipmunks, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, and other creatures live, lay eggs in or eat from leaves, according to NWF's plea with the public to let the leaves stay where gravity left them.

"I care about the life cycle of all the insects that live in my yard," said Sarah Moore of the Pacific Science Center's indoor butterfly garden. "I want to be a habitat."

Butterflies begin in leaves as larvae.Moore says she never rakes her leaves at home.

Another scientist at the University of Washington Arboretum says he rarely rakes.

"It changes the habitat," said Randall Hitchin, who showed us all the insects that live in a pile of leaves. "It makes it unfriendly for them."

~USA Today

There are exceptions to this idea.  I grew up in the mountains of Southern California where it is very dry.  It is the law that you must keep your pine needles and leaves raked a certain distance (25 feet from what I remember) from your home so that a forest fire won't get right up against your house in a hurry, and so if you're cigarette drops from your porch, it won't cause a forest fire.  

So what about our beautiful lawns?  How many of us spray pesticides and weed killers on our lawns?  Have you ever wondered about your pets eating your grass, and what that does to them?  Many pets these days get cancer and tumors.  I think it's coming from the weed killers on the grass they munch on, but that's just me.  So is it better to just let the leaves cover the grass, and to let it die?  I suppose these are trade-offs.  The grass produces oxygen, does it not?  Leaves don't.  But they make great mulch and fertilizer that eventually grows trees and bushes and weeds.  

In the forests of New Mexico, the Indians still manage some of them, where the trees are thinned so as one tree doesn't interfere with the growth of another.  The undergrowth is burned regularly, and this is considered healthy for the forests to manage them in this way.  

Ultimately, each community and individual must make decisions that will effect the way in which we plan to help the critters or shield ourselves from them, and how we get along with the bugs, the birds, and the bees.  


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