Mosquito Prevention–5 Things

Mosquito Prevention–5 ThingsLarson Mosquito

 

I don’t get a lot of mosquitos where I live, in fact, several of my windows don’t even have screens on them. But I hate a mosquito bite as much as the next person, so I was interested  in a recent article about mosquito-repellant plants.

Preventing an invasion, tho’, starts with knowing a bit about the little fly. For example, who knew she’s attracted to Carbon Dioxide?

Some other facts:

♣Most mosquitos breed in stagnant water, but it can be as little as the drop that remains in a leaf axil or cupped leaf.

♠In colder climates, many mosquito eggs and/or larvae can over-winter frozen, or even dried out, in a state called “diapause”, beginning to grow again with thaw or water.

♥Usually the period from egg to adult is up to 40 days, but the adult lifespan only a week or so. And contrary to popular belief, the female will only feed once (unless disturbed from getting a “full blood meal”), then rest several days while digesting the meal and making eggs. They can only do this two or three times before the end of their natural life. So that one mosquito that bugged you all night and left you with multiple bites was actually a family of mossies.

♦It appears to be a myth that if you allow the mosquito to finish supper, and remove her proboscis unmolested, you won’t feel the itch of the bite. Couldn’t find any evidence for this.

The feeding preferences of Mosquitos include those with type O blood, heavy breathers, those with a lot of skin bacteria, people with a lot of body heat, and the pregnant. (Wikipedia)

WOW! Hard to change most of those things!

5 Things

Standing Water

Periodically check around the yard for standing water. Could be in a planter tray, the tarp covering your winter tires, the edge of a pool where your hose bib drips. Have you got a container garden without drainige holes (or enough drainage holes)?

The key here is standing water–if there is movement to the water, the mosquito won’t find it a hospitable place to lay her eggs. So if you’ve been resisting installing a fish pond (with pump adequate to the its volume), or water feature of some kind, never fear–there’s way too much turbulence for a mosquito nursery.

Fish

If you do have a pond, consider stocking it with fish for those quiet areas behind rocks or plants where the water isn’t really moving.

Of course, that means you’re keeping more pets, because even tho’ they are easy to look after, they do need some looking after. Not to mention fish predation–but that’s a subject for another post…

Diversity

I’ve harped on about this many times–it’s the answer to most of your garden concerns, from disease and pests to garden delight. In this case having habitat for many different species in your yard will decrease the likelihood of mosquitos enjoying the same neighbourhood. Mayfies, damselflies, dragonflies all love mosquitos and their larvae, but won’t eat enough to keep your evening read in the garden pest free. Ditto for birds. But lots of different birds and dragonflies, and frogs and toads, and spiders, combined with other prevention methods will go  a long way toward ensuring your family’s comfort.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plant repellants

Plants with a lot of volatile oils are apparently good mosquito repellants, so plant them near your preferred sitting area in the garden–as well as further away, so you’ll have a mosquito-free zone.

Lemon balm--my tenant "accidentally" planted it in his section of the garden--it didn't stay there!

Lemon balm–my tenant “accidentally” planted it in his section of the garden–it didn’t stay there!

 Many of our favourite herbs have offensive smells to mosquitos–basil, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, lemon thyme, lavender, probably more. Besides growing them, picking off a few stems and rubbing it on exposed skin may increase the effect. Then there’s non-herb fragrant plants: garlic, marigold, rose-scented geranium (pelargonium, the annual kind), catmint (nepeta)…

Skin Care

Some of the above herbal applications may only work for a short time–half hour or so. Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News suggests watching out for what the mosquitos do: initially they don’t come near, then they alight but don’t bite, then they alight and bite. During that middle phase, get up and reapply some lemon balm or lavender–maybe try a different herb than last time? Some other suggestions are not wearing perfume and having a fan nearby. Apparently they’re weak fliers, but I guess the fan should still be pretty strong!

It’s a little late in the year to initiate many of these strategies, but maybe you’ll be inspired to add “anti-mosquito garden design” to your garden to-do list for fall or next spring.

Anyone have any great suggestions that I haven’t mentioned? Please share them here.

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Design a Wildlife Garden–Instalment Last

Design Your Wildlife Garden

We’ve had an overview of the Wildlife Garden with “How to Design the Wildlife Garden”. That covered a lot about Birds.

Next were a bunch more B’s–Planning Your Wildlife GardenBees, Butterflies, Beneficials.

pacific-chorus-frog

Pacific Chorus Frog. Photo Credit.

Painted Turtle, not to be confused with Slider Turtle, which is NOT native,.

Painted Turtle, not to be confused with Slider Turtle, which is NOT native. Photo Credit.

Long-Toes Salamander, smaller than my palm.

Long-Toed Salamander, smaller than my palm. Photo Credit.

Finally, let’s look at ponds and bogs. I’ve linked to NatureScape BC several times, and this is no exception: here’s a great quick primer on designing your pond.

(And lest I forget to mention, never release store-bought frogs, snakes, tropical fish, turtles, or any other critter into your outdoor pond. There is always a risk that it can become an invasive species and/or spread disease among native species. Remember the snakehead fish story!)

Back to designing our wildlife garden:

To get a mixture of wildlife enjoying your pond, you’ll need a variety of quite a number of things. A variety of water depths, of sun exposures, of textures, of plantings. I’ll go over each of these.

Birds will want shallow and moving water, frogs will want shallow and deep still water. So when you plan out the shape of your pond, design it with 2 sections; one is dug to about 0.5-1 metre deep, the other only 0.25 m deep. It’s particularly important to have a shallowly sloped edge–like a beach–so that nothing ends up drowning because it can’t get out. And birds like to frolic in toe-deep water, even underneath dripping water.  Have a little waterfall positioned on the shallow side, which of course will flow over to the deeper side.

As for sun exposure, at least 4 hours of direct sun is recommended. It’ll be dang hard to dig a pond under an older tree, so you’ll have to locate it more in the open. But all your little guests will appreciate some shade, as will some of your plants, so plan to plant some taller shading flowers, grasses, shrubs, even small trees around the periphery.

(The above picture is in Seattle (thanks to Houzz). I love the overall look of it, but would add more tall and overhanging plants to cast shade on the water. A lovely little Japanese maple would do the trick.)

Since we’re going for inviting our native species to this pond, include both native plants as well as others that will appreciate the same environment with no added water, fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. Goes without saying (yet everyone dos go on to say), pesticides and herbicides are going to kill off the very wildlife you want to attract. Include bog and moisture-loving plants right along the edge of the pond (a nice spot for Pussy Willow–Salix discolor), and dry soil-lovers like sedums and sempervivums (hens and chicks) among the rocks. And you’ll want to include actual water plants which will both aerate the water, and keep it clean. They in effect become a “filtering system”. Along the edge that will be your own “viewing spot”, have minimal plant growth, but along the back side, have nice dense growth with lots of layers/heights.

Along the edges and even in the water itself you’re going to want different sorts of rocks, from very flat rocks like flagstone, to rounder rocks/boulders that will add contrast to some of the plantings, to pea rock or small scale river rocks along the “beach” side. Again, the more variety you offer, the more varied will be your inhabitants.

About fish. Having a few comets or mosquito fish will increase the diversity in your pond garden because they’ll help keep the ecosystem balanced. The little problem is keeping them. What with racoon, herons, skunks and neighbourhood cats, their lives are pretty precarious. If you can keep them from becoming lunch, then by all means add them to the pond. And don’t feed them–they’re there to serve a function–eating debris and mosquito larvae not least. Oh, and being entertaining!

Now clearly, this is not a treatise on how to build a backyard pond. There are lots of details, from how to construct the waterfall to what kind of products to use to where to position your pump–none of which I can address here. My purpose is just to get you thinking about how you can increase the diversity in your property, even in your region. Your neighbours will inevitably like what you’re doing (creating your wildlife-friendly garden), and want to do likewise. And now you may have the beginning of a “habitat corridor”.

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