Pollinator protection does not have to be relinquished in exchange for managing mosquitoes. The impact of mosquito spraying on pollinators is noticed long after spraying has ended. Studies show wild bee populations are even more susceptible to pesticide exposure than honey bees due to differences in biology and habitat. For instance, our native male bees sleep outside in flowers, so when most pesticide labels require spraying pre-dawn when honey bees are not active and mostly in their hives, native bees are not taken into consideration.
Fortunately, here in Oregon we don’t have to worry about Zika virus, and West Nile Virus (WNV) is of little concern in Jackson County. However, the presence of dead crows, ravens, magpies, sage-grouse, or jays in an area would warrant reporting, because wild birds are primary hosts to WNV. You can call ODFW wildlife health hotline: 1- 866-968-2600.
The Audubon Society reminds us that pesticides are poisons – to nonhumans and humans. Far more people become ill from pesticides each year than will be impacted by West Nile Virus. Random use of pesticides will not protect you from West Nile Virus but it will add another unnecessary hazard to your environment and your health.
Why do some people seem to be mosquito magnets?
Mosquitoes are drawn to strong scents found in perfumes, colognes, and shampoos. They also like the scent of cholesterol and beer. Scientists have learned that carbon dioxide, heat, lactic acid, and that deliciously sweet scent of drying sweat are highly attractive to our piercing, blood sucking neighbors. Basically all of your efforts for getting in shape this summer are like a neon sign “This diner open for business” to the mosquitoes. Fear not! The benefits gained from exercise far outweigh the nuisance of mosquitoes. After having lived in Mexico, the east coast, and a short stint in South Africa, I’ve grown to tolerate the little buggers.
Check out the six actions (below) you can take for managing mosquitoes while protecting pollinators.
First, make sure it’s a mosquito. Midges, Mayflies, and Crane flies are often mistaken for mosquitoes. Midges are smaller (more like gnats) and their larvae live in water and are a vital part of the ecosystem. They are a key prey source for frogs, toads and fish. Midge larvae consume algae and are used as a bio-indicator of water pollution according to Wildlife Articles. Mayflies and Crane flies look like giant mosquitoes and don’t bite They’re harmless. Begin with proper identification.
Six Actions for Managing Mosquitoes while Protecting Pollinators
#1: Standing Water Solutions
James J. Lunders, Manager & Biologist at Jackson County Vector Control stressed the single most important thing property owners can do to prevent a mosquito problem at home is to “eliminate all standing water on their property.” Because anything that holds water for seven days can produce mosquitoes. Last post, I shared tips for removing standing water. If you have mosquitoes around your pond or permanently standing water, try this:
- Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Mosquitofish are free to Jackson County residents via Vector Control. There’s a limited supply. Call 826-2199. Bluegills and minnows also eat mosquito larvae.
- Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is considered a relatively harmless biological larvicide that prevents mosquito larvae from developing into adults. It’s sold as dunks or bits for water that cannot be drained. Try the fish first.
#2: Attract Natural Predators
- Two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. They don’t, however, coexist well together as fish will eat dragonfly larvae. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae in the water, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control. To attract dragonflies, place perches like bamboo poles, tall plants, or flat rocks where they can sun themselves in and around the water. Add native water plants from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoid pesticides.
- One bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour. Did you know that bats live up to 40 years and are more closely related to humans than to rodents? Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house. Jacksonville local, Tim Short, sells his handmade bat houses for $45.00. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hummingbirds snack on mosquitoes too! Attract hummingbirds with perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines.
#3: Repel with Plants
Fellow Master Gardener De Davis-Guy shared her mosquito repelling secret: she keeps two planters on her deck, one with lemon balm, citronella, lemon basil, and catmint and the second with horsemint, marigolds, and lemon thyme. Here are other plants to consider:
- Lemongrass (contains the oil citronella)
- Scented Geraniums on windowsills
- French Marigolds
- Lemon Thyme
#4: Personal Protective Measures
- Install screens in windows and doorways.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, hats and socks, and try to avoid being outside dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Turns out, the color of your clothing doesn’t matter, but wearing white in the summer feels cooler and Emily Post would approve.
- Keep a fan blowing while outside. This low-tech strategy may be the most effective for keeping the biting buggers at bay.
- When barbequing or at the fire pit, toss rosemary or sage into the flames.
- All-things lemon – plant it, rub it all over your body, or make tea. Test for allergies first!
- Avon’s Skin So Soft and daily B1 (thiamine) supplements may work for some. They don’t work for me.
- Avoid bug zappers, because they have been proven to attract mosquitoes without killing them and instead killing beneficial insects.
#5: Nontoxic Mosquito repellents
Poisoning yourself with toxic chemicals may not be the best approach to fending off mosquitoes. If you’re in an area with Zika, the choices may be tougher. The intergoogle abounds with nontoxic repellents.
- A friend (thanks Koren!) swears by Eco Smart.
- Beyond Toxics recommends Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
- Local aromatherapist, Nancy Cyr, shared a natural mosquito repellant recipe from the
2 ounce spritzer bottle
10 drops Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
5 drops Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
14 drops Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
5 drops Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Place essential oil drops (found in health stores) in bottle.
- Fill with water. Lemongrass must be diluted, because it can be a skin irritant.
- Shake well before each use.
- Spritz on clothing, hair, arms, legs.
- Avoid eyes and face.
#6: Mosquito Cappuccino?
New research suggests coffee may be the future of mosquito control. Coffee was shown to kill larvae and deter mosquitoes from laying eggs.
- Besides being a nitrogen-packed addition to your garden soil or compost bin, coffee grounds have another important purpose: A plate of smoldering grounds (fresh or used and dried) helps stave off mosquitoes. Bonus: smoldering coffee grounds may also help repel yellow jackets, but if not, try sliced cucumbers placed around your outdoor dinner.
What tips do you have? Share a comment online!