Many folks understand the importance of protecting and supporting nature in our yards.  Snags, brush & rock piles, plus properly maintained small bee nesting boxes are features sometimes overlooked, but can easily be incorporated into our yards to benefit wildlife. 
Snags are just standing or lying dead trees left to decompose over time. Brush piles are large, loosely stacked logs and other branches left on the ground,  also left to decompose.  Rock piles are rocks of various sizes stacked together to form an area at least 2-3’ in diameter.  All are very importance sources of food and shelter for wildlife because they provide:

  • Living quarters  – wildlife often live in the cavities, crevices and peeling bark of dead trees and in the crevices and tunnels of rocks both on land and in water.
  • Storage areas – wildlife use crevices and cavities to store food, especially in the winter.
  • Food Sources – decomposing trees and rocks attract many types of insects, fungus, lichens, and moss which are in turn eaten by many other types of wildlife.
  • Nesting materials – the fungus, lichens and moss found on decomposing trees and rocks are often used as nesting materials.
  • Hiding places – wildlife often  hide from predators and bad weather in cracks and crevices.
  • Hang outs  – the limbs of dead trees serve  as perches or breeding areas for many birds. Rocks provide basking areas for turtles, butterflies and dragonflies.
  • Nature’s Gold  – decomposing wood and rocks contribute organic matter, nutrients and minerals to the soil.

So please consider a snag, rock or brush pile if the opportunity arises so long as it will not become a safety hazard ( e.g. tree falling on a house) or create insect problems  if located too close to your house (e.g. carpenter ants).  Learn how leaving leaves and dried plant material can also help in these articles “Leave the Leaves”, Spring Cleanup – Not so Fast”.  Additional resources and information on snags, piles and nesting boxes include:

Creating Habitat and Homes for Illinois Wildlife

Animal Inn: There’s Life in Dead Trees

Great local book: Creating Habitat and Homes for Illinois Wildlife – Newman, Warner, Mankin

Small size Bee Nesting Boxes – These artificial wood boxes simulate dead wood and hollow plant stems. Recently it is been noted that small nesting boxes which are properly maintained to prevent the spread of diseases and pests, are better than larger or elaborate nesting boxes where a large number of nesting bees are concentrated into one area. Natural habitat providing hollow stems, dead wood and  areas for ground nesting, are best. See my notebook article  Give Bees a Chance and “The Pollinator Project”