We have moved into a home and are trying to work on updating/cleaning up the place. The yard had flowers planted last year but the leaves were not cleaned out before fall. As I am cleaning out the leaves and removing plants/weeds, I am noticing a large amount of insects (worms, spiders, lots of ants, etc) under the leaves and in the gardens. Is this normal? Is it because everything was ignored for so long that they have moved in? Will they stay or if I keep working will they go away?
Insects will overwinter wherever they find protective cover. Plant residue in the garden is a good place for them to hide. So I'd say that the insects that you're finding are a normal phenomenon. If you change the habitat (i.e. clean up the plant residue), they'll likely be much less numerous. However, keep in mind that most spiders and earthworms are very beneficial, so it's good to encourage them in the garden.