Hanging out in the backyard with family and friends can be bliss. Having to shoo and swat mosquitoes at the same time? Not so much. But think twice before you call in a professional pest-control company, even one that claims to be eco-friendly or all-natural. Although this seems like a convenient option, the sprays they disperse to kill mosquitoes will probably also kill friendly pollinators — animals and insects that benefit plants.
How to get rid of mosquitoes without killing friendly pollinatorsJuly 6, 2022
More than 80 percent of plant communities need some pollinators — bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds — to reproduce, says Jean Burns, an associate professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “If you lose all the pollinators in your yard, you may get a lower yield in your vegetable garden, or your flowering bushes may not make seed and bloom the following year,” she says.
Even worse, the loss of pollinators could set off a domino effect beyond your yard. If plants don’t survive, they can’t pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to build leaves and stems for animals to eat, and they can’t release oxygen through photosynthesis. That makes a big difference in keeping the air clean.
Mosquitoes may seem like nothing more than an obnoxious pest, but they play an important part in the ecosystem. Their eggs, found in water, serve as a food source for fish and macroinvertebrates, says Emma Grace Crumbley, an entomologist with national pest-control company Mosquito Squad. And after they emerge from the eggs, they are food for birds, frogs, bats and other species. On the flip side, some mosquitoes carry West Nile virus, so it’s important to protect yourself against their bites as much as possible.
That sets up a conundrum: How do we keep mosquitoes at bay without causing collateral damage to pollinators? Here are some options, many of which use nature as the solution.
Your house is a gigantic bug habitat, and there’s nothing you can do about it
Dump standing water. Female mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, and they can’t reproduce if the larvae have no place to live. At least once a week, empty anything that can collect or pool water, such as buckets, birdbaths, dog bowls, kiddie pools, tarps, playground equipment, plant saucers and gutters. “You’d be surprised by how little water [mosquitoes] need. Even a discarded water bottle or an empty bag of chips with some rainwater can be a breeding ground,” says Matthew Aardema, a medical entomologist and assistant professor at New Jersey’s Montclair State University whose research focuses on mosquitoes.
Give them a Bti cocktail. For bodies of standing water that can’t be drained, try using a Bti product. Bti is a bacterium that specifically targets mosquito larvae without affecting other organisms. When the larvae ingest the Bti, it kills them within minutes. “Targeting larvae populations is more environmentally responsible versus wholesale spraying,” Aardema says. You can find Bti…