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Critters to Welcome During the Winter MonthsSeptember 28th, 2016 by
Winter is coming, and for many around the country, that means putting away the bug spray and citronella candles. While winter is a time of dormancy for many creatures, don’t be surprised if there’s more activity around your yard than expected. Here are some animals and insects you should be excited to see making cameos around your yard this winter.
Doesn’t Winter Mean Hibernation?
Winter is for hibernation, right? Well, yes and no. Many animals and insects are much less active during the colder months, so some do, indeed, hibernate. However, the outdoors is still teeming with wildlife—even in the coldest of climates. For example, there have been reports out of Alaska of caribou being asphyxiated by swarms of mosquitoes near glacial meltwater pools. While that’s certainly an extreme case, even you should expect to see winter insects here and there, though less frequently.
Certain animals can be beneficial to have around your yard primarily because of their capacity to control populations of unwanted pests. Opossums and bats can act as natural supplements to your pest control efforts by reducing populations of harmful animals and insects. For instance, if you live in an area plagued by mosquitoes, building a bat house is a great idea. Unfortunately, these animals also tend to be ones that are commonly thought of with revulsion rather than excitement. If you have a general aversion to things that crawl or scurry—helpful or not—at least consider the benefits you can reap from having them around, including a reduced need for chemical pest control.
Birds are great to have around, not only for their musical stylings, but also because they are excellent pollinators for winter flowers, fruits, or vegetables that you plan to grow. You can help wintering or migratory bird populations by putting out food for them and by keeping your cats indoors. Cats are skilled predators that can wreak havoc on bird populations.
Good insects can generally be classified into two groups: predators and parasites. The predator category probably includes the ones that you’re more accustomed to hearing about—ladybugs, praying mantids, and bees. Though they’d probably never admit it, you can almost think of these insects as conscripts in your war against the pests that might otherwise decimate your ornamental plants or vegetable garden. While spiders are arachnids and not insects, they perform natural pest control functions similar to the aforementioned insects.
Parasites are almost never fun to think about, but insects with parasitic life cycles, like many flies and wasps, can also help control pest populations. They typically lay eggs in their host, which eventually hatch and begin using the host as an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a horror movie on a miniature scale—the host pest meets a horrible end, but your garden ends up safer.
If you’re taking a stroll in your yard and come across any of these critters, keep in mind that they’re helping make your yard a better place during the winter and throughout the rest of the year.