Life in the Leaf Litter

I tend to leave many of the fallen leaves from Autumn lying on the ground over the winter. This may not be gardening best-practice, but when the winter is hard leaf litter provides a shelter for insects and other creatures and somewhere for hungry birds to look for food when other options are no longer available. Last winter during “The Beast from the East” several blackbirds and redwings spent most of their days combing the fallen leaves for winter food. This year there seemed enough other food available and perhaps it wasn’t worth running the gauntlet of the neighbourhood cats to spend so much time on the ground.

Having raked up some of the excess leaves and put them in the compost bin, it was interesting to see this morning just how many bugs had crawled out. So many snails and four species of slug for starters, including #417 Marsh Slug (Deroceras laeve). Lots of Birch Catkin Bugs seem to have over-wintered in the leaf litter, along with loads of tiny spiders, springtails and mites. A small tear-shaped rove beetle, #417 Tachyporus hypnorum, was also new for the list. The hairy looking caterpillar is I think from a Scarlet Tiger moth.

Teaming with life, it shows how valuable leaf-litter is for over-wintering bugs (and the birds and animals that might eat them); a good argument for leaving the leaves through to spring.