Thinking about cleaning up the branches and leaves in your yard this spring or mowing your lawn? The debris can be precious shelter for insects and other animals in our ecosystem.  

Nature Conservancy of Canada’s director of science and stewardship Dr. Mhairi McFarlane is recommending that you clean up your yard slowly and gradually as that debris can act as shelter for animals when it is cold out and gives them something to eat throughout the summer.  

As an example, she said adult Mourning Cloak Butterflies can survive winters by using leaves and branches.  

While she has heard of “No Mow May”, McFarlane said the reality is different habitats and animals have different needs, so there isn’t a single temperature or date that is safe to clean everything up.  

Instead of “No Mow May”, she prefers “Slow Mo May.” This means picking a nice, warm, sunny summer day and slowly cleaning up your yard.  

“Insects and snakes, toads and frogs, that gives them a chance to warm up enough so they can hop out of your way, especially if you're using a lawnmower or something like that,” McFarlane said.  

She added that, when it comes to winter, don’t be too quick in digging up your dead flowers and plants.  

“Even the dead parts of plants are really important in supporting creatures throughout the winter, giving them shelter from the fun winter weather, but to things to eat right through into the spring and throughout the summer months as well,” McFarlane explained.  

She said a purist wouldn’t do any cleaning up, but that isn’t practical. McFarlane said you need to be sensible for safety, practical and aesthetic reasons.