Summer is the perfect time for barbeques, block parties, and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it’s also mosquito season. As the temperatures rise, so do the mosquito populations. They love hot weather, and lay dormant during the cold winter. Besides the irritating buzzing in your ear and the itchy lumps, mosquitoes can be harmful to your health. Mosquitoes can carry diseases like Zika and West Nile Virus. Insecticides and other chemical pest control methods can be dangerous to local wildlife and can be counterproductive, killing insects like dragonflies that eat mosquitoes. Natural prevention methods help keep the population under control by targeting the larvae and stopping the life-cycle.
Mosquitoes are undeniably irritating creatures that seem to enjoy ruining outdoor fun. Their bites itch, and send you into a ninja-like frenzy in attempts to find the assailant. Mosquitoes actually eat plant nectar. Only the females suck blood for protein. The protein is used to help her produce eggs. The itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the mosquitoes saliva, an anticoagulant, which stops the blood from clotting, so she can drink it faster.
Mosquitoes breed quickly. The female mosquito lays between 100 to 300 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch in two days and turn into larvae that swim around in the water. The larvae become adults in little over a week, less time if the water is really warm. Female mosquitoes typically live for three or four weeks, but can live up to six months. Because of this quick lifecycle, prevention methods that stop the breeding or target the larvae are more effective than targeting the adults.
Mosquitoes have to lay their eggs on still water. They only need about a bottle cap full of water to lay their eggs. Minimizing the amount of standing or still water in your yard can greatly help reduce the mosquito population.
Ponds get a bad rep as mosquito nurseries. Adding a aeration like a fountain (and running it 24/7) is the best way to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs on your pond. Mosquito fish, guppies, and smaller goldfish will happily eat the mosquito larvae in the water. If you know your pond is teeming with mosquito larvae, feed the fish a little less so they can supplement their diet with the larvae. Minimize very shallow areas of the pond, as they will have the warmest water and attract egg laying mosquitoes. Keeping the pond clear and free of debris will help reduce the larval food source.
Check for less obvious sources of standing water like rain barrels, clogged gutters, buckets, pet bowls, planters. Birdbaths and pet bowls should be cleaned out every couple of days. After it rains, check your yard for any unexpected puddles, which you can fill with dirt, and places that may have accumulated water like grill covers. Make sure water features are kept running.
Mosquito Repelling Plants
Planting herbs and flowers that mosquitoes do not like may help them stay away. You could plant these near your porch or by your grill. Herbs are great to have anyway because it saves a trip to the store, and fresh herbs taste amazing. Lavender will give your yard a wonderful fragrance when it’s in bloom.
- Lemon grass (can be boiled to make a really tasty tea!)
- Catnip (may attract local cats)
Dragonflies are great for mosquito control. Females lay their eggs in water (hopefully your pond!) and as they hatch, the nymphs will feed on mosquito larvae. When they grow into adult dragonflies, they start eating adult mosquitoes. A single dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes each day! You may be able to buy dragonfly nymphs at your local bait store (they are sometimes used for fishing).
Thanks to vampire legends, bats tend to be thought of as “creepy.” Most bats eat fruits and bugs, not human blood. Bats can help reduce the mosquito population. You can encourage them to live in your yard by building or buying a bat house. A DIY bat house is a great project for the kids. Bats are also great pollinators, working in the night to pollinate plants and distribute seeds.
Mosquitoes are a hassle during the summer. Their bites are both itchy and can carry diseases. They can ruin an outdoor activity and force you inside during beautiful nights. You can use natural methods to reduce the mosquito population in your yard without having to use harmful chemicals. Mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem, but you can eliminate breeding areas and use fish, dragonflies, plants, and bats to help curb the population.