Mosquito eaters are simply the kinds of wildlife that feed on mosquitoes. Even though mosquitoes don’t have any one natural predator that threatens the species, there are many types of animals that feed on them.
Long before humans began relying on pesticides or other modern conveniences, using natural control, like predators, was one of the few weapons in the war on mosquitoes. Now that it is becoming clear that pesticides have such severe ecological drawbacks, both for humans and wildlife, it is important to know what kinds of wildlife can help reduce mosquito populations.
Just as organic gardeners use beneficial insects to control garden pests, these mosquito eaters help to control mosquitoes.
Some have more of a reputation for being mosquito eaters than is warranted, in other cases, the label is a fit.
Here are just a few of the more common mosquito eaters.
There are many types of adult and juvenile waterfowl that eat mosquitoes. And quite a few species of migratory songbirds do also. The most common bird reputed to eat mosquitoes is the purple martin. In reality, purple martins eat few mosquitoes. Instead, one of their relatives, the tree swallow is a much more voracious mosquito eater. They are the avian equivalent of the gardener’s beneficial insect, when it come to mosquito control.
Tree swallows are native to most of the United States and Canada, except for the Southeastern United States.
Keep in mind though, that birds are a mosquito’s favorite dining target. Some mosquito species will choose a bird for feeding before choosing a human. The problem is that mosquitoes outnumber both birds and humans, and feed on both. And, some birds are an integral part in the transmission of some types of encephalitis. On the other hand, unless you live in an area completely without trees and vegetation, you couldn’t keep birds out of your yard if you tried.
Some people have touted bats as an effective means of reducing mosquito populations. While some bats eat mosquitoes, it depends on which bat species you have around your home. Bats normally consume 500-1200 insects an hour, but not that many are mosquitoes. The Large Brown Bat goes for bigger prey. They have a very fast metabolism and need lots of food. Mosquitoes are simply too small to meet their dietary needs. They prefer larger targets like moths, June beetles, and stink bugs(now there’s a plus).
Little Brown Bats, on the other hand, will eat more mosquitoes, if they can find them. Mosquitoes are most active, generally, around dusk and dawn. While bats begin feeding then, they are more active after dark. At night, mosquitoes tend to hide in leaves and other vegetation, so the bats don’t find them. And, mosquitoes do not swarm, so finding a few is not enough to meet even this smaller bat’s food needs.
Some people have excessive fears about bat’s ability to transmit rabies. It is true that bats get the disease, but there have only been 15 bat related rabies deaths in the United States in the past 40 years. You are much more likely to find a rabid skunk. If you see a bat out during the day, avoid it. If you find a sick one, or a dead one, don’t touch it, just remove it with a shovel.
If you choose to install a bat house, be sure it is away from a dwelling, in full sun and about 15 feet off the ground. Just don’t expect that the bats you are encouraging to live there are going to make any real inroads in your mosquito population. If you have a bad problem with stink bugs, that is another matter!
Frogs and toads both feed on mosquitoes. Both beasts need a water source to breed, but frogs need to be in a moist environment at all times to keep their skin wet.
Toads live easily in drier environments and if happy, will stay in the same garden for up to 20 years. Both frog and toad tadpoles will also feed on mosquito larvae. A toad can consume up to 50-100 mosquitoes and slugs a night, and the average yard can support several toads. They are a care free way to add more mosquito eaters to your yard and garden.
If you have a pond or water garden, several types of fish are great mosquito eaters. They help by feeding on mosquito larvae. Mosquito fish are just one kind that will eat the larvae. You can also stock your pond with guppies, flathead minnows, shad, killifish, or small goldfish, which are all great mosquito eaters.
Scientists and researchers are turning increasingly to finding natural, biological controls for reducing mosquito populations. Many species of mosquitoes are developing resistance to pesticides, causing more concern for their use. And, the harm to the environment is a growing reason not to continue using toxic chemicals.
It can cost up to 50 million dollars to develop new pesticides, and chemical companies are becoming more reluctant to expend so much on items that may not survive the government’s scrutiny.
So researchers are looking for more natural biological weapons, like these.
Now scientists are taking a cue from organic gardeners and finding beneficial controls that parallel the helpful contol activities of long used beneficial insects
What, you are thinking, is a copepod? Good question. Not your average wildlife friend. They are microscopic crustaceans. In other words, you can’t see them easily. They may be in ponds and still waters around your home, but you wouldn’t know it. Somewhat crablike in appearance, they are found in both ocean and freshwater environments. Find out more about Copepods
Certain types of aquatic fungus can cause certain death for mosquito lavae. Mushrooms, the garden types, are fungus also. And, just as they release spores that produce other mushrooms, these aquatic fungus produce spores to reproduce. When the larvae eat the spores, they rapidly reproduce killing the larvae in a matter of days. While perhaps not exactly mosquito eaters, these spores are great at destroying the larvae.
One type of mosquito species, Toxorhynchites does not bite humans, but their larvae eat the larvae of other mosquito species. This is best case scenario, mosquitoes that are mosquito eaters.
Talk about beneficial insects!
Nematodes are small, unsegmented worms that are found everywhere. Many live in soil, but some aquatic species are very effective as parasites that quickly kill mosquito larvae.
As mosquitoes become more resistant to pesticides, we can hope to find more effective biological means like Bti, to combat the growing problems of mosquitoes and the diseases they spread.