Many insects successfully pass the winter as immature larvae. The Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) spends the winter as a tiny caterpillar, hidden in leaf litter. The female lays her eggs around the base of native violets, her chosen host plant, in the fall. The caterpillar will emerge soon after; but instead of feeding, it enters diapause (a dormant state), remaining hidden under cover of fallen leaves. When the weather warms and the violets begin to grow, the caterpillar will awaken and begin munching away.
When gardening for pollinators, it’s important to leave the leaves! Over-zealous fall cleanup strips a habitat of one of its most precious winter resources—the shelter of leaf litter. So as the air starts to chill—gardeners can chill out as well, and let clean-up wait till spring!
Author: Lisa Schneider
Photo Credit: Prairie Haven
Snetsinger Butterfly Garden Knowledge Series