Take an integrated approach to controlling mosquitoes on your property this summer when you encourage natural predators to aid in the fight. Besides causing bothersome bites, mosquitoes can transmit diseases like West Nile virus and Zika. If you’re looking for solutions that don’t involve spraying, consider attracting bats, dragonflies and other skeeter-eating critters to your property.
In order to reduce the mosquito population, you must take measures at every stage of the life cycle. There are four stages in a mosquito’s life: egg, larva, pupa and adult. When you disrupt the life cycle, you can reduce the mosquito population in your area.
Mosquitoes breed in summer and lay their eggs in water. And they don’t need a lake or pool – mosquitoes can breed in as little as a bottle cap of water.
For this reason, the top mosquito-control advice is: Kill mosquitoes before they are old enough to bite by eliminating sources of standing water. This even can mean filling in depressions in the ground that fill when it rains and drain slowly. Gardeners and DIY-ers frequently have buckets and containers around the garden. Cover or empty them, and fill watering cans only when you need them.
If you have a rain barrel or water feature, be sure to toss in a mosquito dunk once a month. It’s a natural mosquito larvicide that’s harmless to birds, fish, wildlife and pets. Break the dunks into smaller chunks and use them in small water features like bird baths.
If you have a swimming pool, properly maintain it to prevent mosquitoes and report unmaintained pools to your municipality.
Keep grass trimmed and eliminate weeds and debris around your property. Beds of English ivy provide dense vegetation for mosquitoes to breed in (snakes like English ivy, too).
Another tactic of mosquito control is encouraging natural predators like dragonflies, bats, birds and frogs. Dragonflies dine on mosquitoes at two stages: as nymphs, they eat mosquito larvae, and when mature, they eat adult mosquitoes. Dragonflies like small ponds with vegetation and flat rocks for a landing pad.
Attracting bats to your landscape is another strategy to combat mosquito populations. Add a bat house to either a pole in your yard or on the side of your house. The Home Depot sells a ready-made bat house and a bat house kit that is ready to assemble and install. Both are made of cedar, which is preferable for bats to be able to get traction to move in and out of the house. The untreated cedar boxes will weather with age. Place bat houses 10 to 15 feet from the ground on a corner of your house or on a pole.
It’s important to remember that bats are opportunistic feeders and will dine on the insects that are available to them. Bats are nocturnal pollinators and will appreciate a night-blooming garden with moonflower, evening primrose, cleome and nicotiana.
Purple martins are purported to eat more mosquitoes than bats do. This claim is unlikely, since martins feed during the day, while mosquitoes are nocturnal. Still, martins are wonderful birds to attract to your yard with nesting boxes or a homegrown gourd turned into a birdhouse.
Enhance your mosquito control efforts with plants known to repel mosquitos.