Are mosquitoes driving you batty? Fight back with bats and other environmentally friendly solutions
Published 11:41 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023
By Sharon Mammoser
As much as we all complain about mosquitoes, the truth is that they are part of our food web and are here to stay. They’ve been around for millions of years and provide food for many other animals, including birds, fish, and many amphibians.
Some popular and widespread solutions that claim to kill mosquitoes are either non-effective or bad for the environment. For instance, did you know that those popular bug zappers that claim to kill mosquitoes, do not actually attract mosquitoes? Instead, they attract and kill many other kinds of insects, including many important pollinators like moths, beetles, and parasitic wasps. And many chemicals on the market that claim to kill “only mosquitoes” do not discriminate. Instead, they kill everything in their path, including many, many, beneficial insects. Thankfully, there ARE environmentally friendly alternatives.
Pay attention to sources of standing water, like bird baths, gutters, container garden reservoirs, old tires, and any other potential water sources. Mosquito larvae require water for part of their lifecycle and aren’t at all fussy about the quality or quantity of that water. Females will happily lay their eggs in a tiny cup of murky water, a shallow bird bath, or anything else they can find that has water in it. They have a very quick turnaround from egg to adult, on average 8-10 days, though in hot weather this could drop to only 4 days. By paying attention to, and regularly emptying bird baths and other standing water sources, any mosquito larvae that are in the water will die.
Did you know that keeping lights on all night in your yard may REPEL bats? This may not seem like such a bad thing but consider that bats are among the main predators of flying nocturnal insects, including mosquitoes. If bats avoid your yard because it is lit up at night by artificial lights, an increase in mosquitoes may be the result. This is probably not the result you were hoping for. By putting your lights on motion sensors, or turning them off when you’re not actively using them, bats will frequent your yard and happily feast on your mosquitoes, free of charge! It’s a win-win solution for you and the bats that share your space.
Entomologist and author of Nature’s Best Hope, Douglas W. Tallamy, suggests controlling mosquitos at the larval stage instead of the adult stage by way of a mosquito larva trap. Adult mosquitoes are drawn to the fermenting solution, laying their eggs in the water and then dying there before becoming adults. To create this mosquito larvae trap, you’ll need a bucket, some hay or straw, water, a Mosquito Dunk® or another brand containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), and some chicken wire (optional.) Put a few inches of straw or hay in the bottom of the bucket. Add rain or other water. Put this in a sunny spot and leave it alone for a few days. Then, add a Mosquito Dunk® in the hay. Cover the bucket with chicken wire to prevent anything from accidentally falling in. Put this out in your yard. Any adult mosquitoes nearby will be attracted to the water to lay eggs. Eggs will never become adult mosquitoes. This solution lasts for about a month and is effective because it only kills the larvae of mosquitoes.
Install a Merlin Tuttle Approved bat box in your yard. To make your own, or for tips on hanging one, check out Merlin’s new Bat House Guide. Choosing the right bat box is important since there are many on the market created by inexperienced people who have no scientific background. There is much to consider, including temperature, mounting location, predator avoidance, house size and shape, roosting crevices, providing secure footing for entering and exiting bats, wasp management, and general maintenance.
Now, instead of complaining about mosquitoes, or resorting to harsh and harmful chemicals, you have some effective tools you can use. Some, like installing a bat box, will help you AND the bats that share your yard.
Sharon Mammoser is a naturalist and photographer with the website natureformysoul.com.