Trends 5/5 – Natural Mosquito Control
By: Rob Sproule
“I hate mosquitoes. I mean, I know I’m delicious, but damn. ”
A Year of Bad Press:
We loathed mosquitoes this year. A wet summer led to a million itchy picnics in Western Canada and the Zika outbreak, although our mosquitoes don’t carry it, gave us yet another reason to hate those biting buggers. How dominant this trend becomes depends largely on the weather. A wet spring and summer will lead to blood sucking misery. And if we have hot and dry weather? We’ll talk about those bugs if we have to.
In 2017, if the weather “cooperates”, expect to see war declared against our sucking friend. Besides the chemical DEET, here are a few weapons in your arsenal.
Learn how to control garden pests naturally with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog
With their ability to reproduce exponentially, the best way to deal with mosquitoes is to not let them be born. If you’re running around the yard swatting and swearing, you’ve already lost the battle. Take a long, but not leisurely, walk around your yard. This is business: you’re conducting a standing water audit of every nook, wheelbarrow, cranny, forgotten wine glass, and birdbath. Check the shed, under the deck, and peer into the deep dark corners. When you find standing water, drain and fix.
Sprinkling larvicide on standing water you can’t drain (i.e.. the nearby pond), will nip them in the bud. It’s a predator that activates in the water and starts chowing down on the skeeter larvae. Did you know some plants repel mosquitoes?
Prevention is best, but we should also know how to kill them. Mosquitoes are slow and tasty; they have a lot of predators. The trick is getting them into your yard.
First, let’s bust up some myths. The internet is full of claims that Purple Martins will eat their own weight in mosquitoes daily and that bats are mosquito killing ninjas. These hyped-up critters will eat them, but not in numbers that will create significant relief. Martins’ diet is about 3% skeeters and bats’ diet about 1%. That being said, both predators (especially bats) are helpful to have around.
Purple Martins are most famous, but other birds will help whittle your population down. Barn Swallows, who build their ubiquitous nests in old barns and like to swoop at passersby, can gobble up about 60/hour. Robins, Chickadees, and Woodpeckers eat their share, too. If you’re nurturing a feathered army, you may want to keep the cat indoors or on a leash. They’re the number one killer of birds in Canada. I love my cats, but they don’t wander freely.
Dragonflies are one of the best natural controls you can get. Gorgeous, harmless to humans, and deadly to mosquitoes, they’ll often eat over 100 per day, diving in at 30 mph and gobbling them up before they know what happened.
The snag with dragonflies is they need a pond or boggy area for habitat. They’re highly sensitive to air pollution, so seeing them in your yard usually indicates good air quality.