Can Other Insects or Creatures Actually Solve Your Mosquito Problem?
In short, yes—several helpful creatures can actually fight the harmful ones.
Ranking high on the list of annoying (and potentially disease-carrying) garden visitors are mosquitoes. In addition to being a barbecue or pool party buzz kill, they're also incredibly difficult to control. Most of the options on the market use the pesticide pyrethrum, which is safe and non-toxic to people, but effectively kills beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, that call your yard and garden home.
Reducing mosquito populations around your home begins with removing stagnant water (this is where they lay their eggs); be sure to dump out pots, buckets, and plant saucers, and regularly clean and refill bird baths and outdoor dog bowls, especially after a rainfall. But there's one additional under-the-radar (and natural!) solution to mosquito control: Employ the help of natural predators who eat mosquitoes and their larvae for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ahead, several creatures that can reduce the number of mosquitoes buzzing around in your backyard.
Often known as "mosquito hawks," dragonflies consider mosquitoes a main food group. Better yet, they also play a role in preventing future populations, since these insects happily eat mosquito eggs, as well. To encourage dragonflies to come visit, begin by creating an inviting habitat. Introduce some sort of water element, like a fountain or a pond; the water needs to be clean and oxygenated, so you'll also need a small pump for movement. Since dragonflies worship the sun, the pond should be positioned in a well-lit spot to provide warmth to cold-blooded dragonflies, which, like butterflies, require heat before they can fly. About 60 percent of your water should be exposed to the sun; the remaining 40 percent needs to be covered with sheltering, floating plants, like water lilies.
Tadpoles won't eliminate mosquito larvae—but once frogs are fully grown, the feeding frenzy begins. Invite these creatures into your yard by removing chemicals in your garden; frogs breathe and drink through their skin, which makes them susceptible to toxins. Next, provide shelter so they can avoid the sun and, in turn, prevent dehydration. Try arranging stones into a small cave formation, or use an overturned cracked clay or ceramic pot. And be sure to provide shallow containers of water in the shade, close to their shelter, if you don't have a pond. There is one thing, however, to keep in mind before you transform your garden into a frog haven: These hoppers eat all types of insects, both good and bad, including slugs, grasshoppers, and beetles.
Jim Normandi, owner of The Fairfax Backyard Farmer, a store specializing in homesteading products and workshops, says that bats are often "misunderstood and under appreciated." Normandi believes in these creatures—and their ability to reduce mosquitoes—so much that he sells bat houses, which can be mounted on a tree, pole, or house. "Bats like a spot with a little sun to warm their box and appreciate a nearby source for water. Some bat boxes can provide a home for up to 300 small bats—and each bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour," he says. If you want to lure bats, also consider planting a night garden with flowers like evening primrose, night-blooming jessamine, and nicotiana—bats' favorites.
Several birds, including barn swallows, purple martins, and waterfowl (ducks and geese) feed on mosquitoes in both the adult and aquatic stages. To attract these beneficial creatures, consider building or buying a birdhouse, and provide a source of fresh water. To make their dwelling site more attractive, provide them—purple martins, especially—with nesting materials like old cloth, leaves, and even eggshells.
Have a pond? Fill it with the extremely useful fish predator, Gambusia affinis, otherwise known as the mosquito fish. According to the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District, these fish consume up to three times their body weight in mosquito larvae a day (that translates to roughly 500 larvae!). This makes them the most successful biological tool against immature mosquitoes in the state of California. In fact, it's such an effective predator of mosquito larvae that it's used by many mosquito control agencies all over the country. Set your own school up for success by filling your pond with at least 20 gallons of water and plenty of plants for hiding. Just know that these fish have a resting phase in the fall and winter, when they don't feed, so they are not a mosquito control option during those times of the year.