To kids, giant piles of fall leaves can spell "f-u-n." They can’t wait to jump in and roll around in these giant pieces of crinkly, naturally colorful confetti. To adults, on the other hand — especially those who have spent hours raking them into nice orderly piles — fallen leaves are a chore. But leaf piles can also be dangerous. They can supply hiding places for all kinds of creatures, from millipedes to snakes.
Most insects and other pests you may find in piles of leaves are relatively harmless, but some are not. Here are some types of pests you may find in piles of leaves:
Spiders are predators and habitually take up residence where they know they'll have ready access to prey. That prey largely consists of other insects. So they may find their way into leaf piles while preying on those insects, or could be raked into the pile. If you’re concerned about spiders in your yard, you may want to bag or otherwise dispose of piles of leaf litter as soon as possible. Doing so can help limit your exposure to common garden spiders — which are considered beneficial and you should avoid killing if possible — as well as potentially dangerous species such as the black widow and brown recluse.
Like spiders, these hunters follow where their hunger leads them. Centipedes are nocturnal and aggressive predators who like to stay hidden and close to the ground. Piles of leaves provide almost irresistible cover for them. Some centipedes can also be equipped with powerful venom that can cause pain and in some cases a severe allergic reaction in some people.
You may think of summer as tick season. However, ticks can still pose a threat during the cooler months when the leaves begin to fall (and pile up). Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are known carriers of the pathogens that can cause Lyme disease. If a tick attaches itself to you and goes undiscovered for a period of time, that can be enough to transmit any number of tick-borne diseases. To help prevent ticks in your yard, make sure that your yard isn't a welcoming habitat for these pests. To do that, keep your grass trimmed and do not let leaves accumulate. Some wintering ticks may seek protection from the elements in dense woody, brushy or leaf-littered areas.
Venomous snakes, such as copperheads (who are also good at camouflage), can be found in leaf piles. If you live in an area where venomous snakes are common, you’ll want to be extra cautious when poking around in piles of fallen leaves.
Pest control tips for your yard
Raking the leaves, bagging them up and setting them on the curb can be a form of instant pest control for your yard. The key is to clean up your yard quickly. When messing with leaf piles that have been sitting out for more than a day, you should wear gloves and use caution. Bugs and other pests may have set up camp in there.