Tired of untidy Monarch Butterfly refuge. What can I trim and/or mow?

Asked September 15, 2020, 11:41 AM EDT

Seems neglect is key to aiding nature. I've seen two monarch butterflies emerge this year. Chrysalis 1 was on a native persimmon branch I planned to trim because it's drooping into my flower bed. Chrysalis 2 was on milkweed in an area of my "lawn" which I used to mow. I'm afraid to cut anything now. What can I trim or mow without destroying important habitat.

May I go into to my little jungle to stake my asters?

Prince George's County Maryland

1 Response

If you need to prune the Persimmon branch, doing so in winter should be fine. Habitat requirements vary with the insect or animal in question and the time of year, so something is always habitat to one organism or another (even bare soil, with regards to some ground-nesting bees). Various beneficial insects and pollinators can overwinter in plant debris, like hollow dead stems and leaf litter. Therefore, disturbing this as little as possible until clean-up is needed in early spring is best. You can certainly stake-up the Asters in the meantime if you wish. If too many invasive weeds have appeared in an area, mowing sooner rather than later to prevent them from going to seed is probably a good compromise to any small-scale habitat loss from doing so.