Beneficial insect habitat vs spring clearing

Asked March 27, 2018, 3:52 PM EDT

I had great success last year in attracting an amazing assortment of pollinators to my garden. I was also able to persuade my housemate to let me leave most of the thick, pithy dead plants standing over the winter as potential shelter for beneficial insects. Now I am facing pressure from him and from the first wave of newly emerging plants to clear out the dead material. Is there a likely date by which most everything will have emerged? If insects are still holed up for the winter, could I avoid harming them by cutting the dead plants off at the base and stacking them beside my house? I see lots of articles on bee-friendly gardening that suggest leaving the plants up through the cold, but none of these seem to explain what to do on the spring end of things. Any advice you can give would be most welcome.

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

This answer depends on the weather. Last year at this time, it was so warm that many of the insects had already emerged. Once you start to see insects, it will be time to clean out the dead material. I would guess it will be in just a 2-3 weeks. Some insects hide under debris on the ground while others, like some of our tiny native bees, winter in the hollow stems of plants like daylilies. Here's a couple links you may find interesting: http://www3.extension.umn.edu/local/morrison/county-horticulture-educator/article/bee-friendly-vs-we... http://www3.extension.umn.edu/local/steele/county-agriculture-educator/article/the-bee-attitude