Today while listening to "You Bet Your Garden" with Mike McGrath, I learned a few things about controlling backyard mosquito populations. First off, I learned that attracting dragonflies may be one of the most effective ways to keep mosquito populations in check. Go to the link below to get the full scoop on how to attract these beneficial insects to your yard.
I was also enlightened to the fact that the notion that bats have a voracious appetite for mosquitoes may be overstated. Apparently, the origin of this misconception is based on the fact that the researcher released mosquitoes into a room with captive bats, and therefore, the mosquitoes were the only available food source. This is not to say that we don't want to encourage the recovery of bat populations, but I think that it is important to be well informed as to the truth about their effectiveness in controlling mosquito populations. Thanks again Mike!
From the AMCA (American Mosquito Control Association):
"M.D. Tuttle, a world authority on bats, is often quoted for his anecdotal report that bats effectively controlled mosquito populations at a popular resort in New York State. While there is no doubt that bats have probably played a visible, if not prominent, role in reducing the mosquito problems in many areas, the natural abatement of mosquito populations is an extremely complex process to study, comprising poorly known ecological relationships. Tuttle attempts to underscore the bats role by citing an experiment in which bats released into a laboratory room filled with mosquitoes caught up to 10 mosquitoes per minute. He extrapolated this value to 600 mosquitoes per hour. Thus, a colony of 500 bats could consume over a quarter of a million mosquitoes per hour. Impressive numbers indeed, but singularly unrealistic when based upon a study where bats were confined in a room with mosquitoes as their only food source. There is no question that bats eat mosquitoes, but to utilize them as the sole measure of control would be folly indeed, particularly considering the capacity of both mosquitoes and bats to transmit diseases." ( http://www.mosquito.org/faq#bats )
I know that for many of us, its a bit too early to be worrying about mosquito bites just yet. But if you are beginning to think about planning your outdoor projects for the upcoming season, it wouldn't hurt to consider how you can incorporate mosquito population reduction into your plans. The first line of defense against mosquitoes is to remove their breeding grounds. I guarantee that you won't get bit by a mosquito if there aren't any around! Now it may be a bit unrealistic to expect that you can eliminate all mosquitoes in your neighborhood, but you can reduce your chances of getting bit in your backyard by taking these four easy steps to reduce the mosquito population.
1. Remove all standing water. Do not leave buckets, wheel barrows or old tires out in the yard for rainwater to fill. It doesn't take long for stagnant water to provide the perfect habitat for mosquito larvae to thrive.
2. Make sure that your rain gutters are free of debris. If your gutters get clogged with leaves and other detritus then they will collect water and drain slowly. This also provides a breeding ground for pesky mosquitoes.
3. Fill in low spots in your yard that collect water, especially if you have poorly draining soil. If you can't fill in the low spots with soil, then consider creating a drainage channel for the water to escape through after a heavy rain. If this is not an option, you may want to turn this area into a water garden or fish pond. If you do create a water feature, be sure to throw in a BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) disk periodically to kill any mosquito larvae. This is a naturally occurring organism that will kill mosquito larvae but is safe for fish and other aquatic critters such as frogs and turtles. Speaking of fish, they will also play an important role in controlling mosquito larvae populations as well as helping establish a healthy ecosystem for your pond. I would also recommend that you also install a waterfall feature with you pond so that the water stays aerated and does not become stagnant.
4. Provide shelter for Purple Martins and/or Bats. Both bats and Purple Martins have a healthy appetite for mosquitoes. Strategically placed bird or bat houses will encourage these natural allies to take up residence near your backyard. I have been encouraged since seeing more bats over the last couple of years! They seem to be making a modest comeback from the devastation that was wrought by white-nose syndrome that all but wiped them out. To encourage Purple Martins as tenants, not just any kind of bird house will do. You will need to buy or build the specific type of house that Purple Martins require. Below are links to the Purple Martin Conservation Association and Build a Bat House by The National WildlifeFederation.