No one enjoys mosquito bites, but concerns over West Nile and Zika viruses have a lot more people interested in natural mosquito control – without synthetic chemicals that will harm beneficial insects, birds, and pollinators. And since bats devour half their weight in insects every night, including mosquitoes, putting up a bat house is gaining popularity.
Do Bats Really Provide a Mosquito Control?
If you have the right kind of bats living in your neighborhood – yes, they help to keep mosquitoes in check. Some areas of the world only have fruit-eating bats. Others have insectivore bats, but they might be less effective at noticeably reducing your mosquito population on a daily basis. That’s kind of important because mosquitoes reproduce rapidly and often.
An Australian study found that small bats are more effective at natural mosquito control. The most common bat in North America, the Little Brown Bat, does eat mosquitoes. However, a 1992 study in Alaska found that skeets only made up 1.8% of their diet, with moths and spiders ranking significantly higher.
This makes a lot of sense. A mammal’s nutritional needs are sized appropriately for their physical size, and mosquitoes are tiny. So, while a bat can consume up to 8,000 insects a night, a mosquito isn’t much volume, so capture needs skyrocket compared to moths. Not very efficient!
Bats Can Still Help
Just because they eat a lot of other insects, don’t just discard the bat house idea just yet. Natural mosquito control calls for an integrated pest management approach using a variety of mosquito predators. Besides, there’s no guarantee that bats will move into your bat house.
Next up for recommendation is the Purple Martin, but before you rush off to nab a purple martin house to combine with your bat house… they also eat more than mosquitoes. This isn’t surprising. Dietary balance is needed, whether you walk, swim, slither, or fly. Still, many bird species eat all kinds of insects, like mosquitoes and plant pests.
The Most Effective Natural Mosquito Control
In addition to martins and bats, there are other possibilities for increasing chemical-free mosquito control. Among them are frogs, fish, and dragonflies. Wait… they’re all water dwellers, and the mosquito issue exists because of water! It’s nature’s way. Put the food source and the consumer in the same ecosystem. But the most effective natural mosquito predators are turtles and tadpoles, according to the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
So, maybe in addition to the bat house, you need housing for different bird species, and a small pond for larvae-eating tadpoles, and adult mosquito-eating turtles. More diners = fewer skeeters.
Other smart tactics are all about reducing mosquito breeding havens… Add a fountain to any pool (wading or swimming), and keep the water clean and circulating. Replace water in bird baths twice a week. Keep your lawn short. Don’t over-water anything. And correct the drainage or grade wherever water stands longer than a day after a heavy rain.
If you don’t give mosquitoes a habitat, you’ll have less of a battle. Still, bats and birds are an excellent part of controlling insect pests in the organic yard and garden.
Images courtesy of SFAJane, Mike Carlo/US Fish & Wildlife, and CDC Global (respectively).