Whenever the subject of mosquito control comes up, someone gives a fervent argument for installing purple martin houses and bat houses. Stores that cater to bird enthusiasts often tout the purple martin houses as the best solution for keeping your yard mosquito free. Bats, which may not be the most beloved of mammals, are defended with the claim that they consume hundreds of mosquitoes per hour.
Photo: Flickr user Dori (CC license)
But here's the truth: neither purple martins nor bats provide any significant measure of mosquito control. That's not to say that they don't eat mosquitoes - they do. But mosquitoes make up a very tiny portion of their diets.
Multiple studies of wild bats have consistently proved that mosquitoes are less than 1% of their diet. In purple martins, the percentage of mosquitoes in their diet is slightly higher - a whopping 3%, at most.
Think about it. A bird or a bat that feeds on insects must invest considerable energy in flying around, catching bugs in mid-air. It's seeking the biggest caloric bang for its buck. Given the choice between a mosquito morsel, a beefy beetle, or a mouthful of moth, it's going to look right past the mosquito.
So the bottom line is this - if you like purple martins or bats and want to provide habitat for them, go for it. Just don't expect them to be the miracle cure for your mosquito problem.
Want more information on how you can control mosquitoes without pesticides? Check out my article Mosquito Control at Home. Print it out and share it with your neighbors, too!