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Debbie Hadley

Mosquito Problem? Don't Bother With Birds and Bats

By July 9, 2009

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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.

Purple martin.
Purple martin
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!

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July 9, 2009 at 8:25 am
(1) Insect-Collection says:

Listerine as Mosquito Deterrent: Urban Legend?

A few months ago, a fellow bug enthusiast sent me a link about Listerine (the mouth wash) as a mosquito deterrent. The link suggested spraying the blue/green liquid around where the unwanted guests are present. The curiosity bug bit me (no puns intended) and I looked around on the net about the validity of its claim. What I’ve found was that Listerine has the potential of “somewhat” working as a deterrent since it contains eucalyptol, a derivative of eucalyptus oil. However, since it contains a very, very limited amount of it, the claim should be minimal at best.

However, what followed also surprised me. Claims by users from various blogs and forums seem to be positive. Could there be more to it than scientifically one should believe?



Unmounted eBay Insects for Collection. New Inventory everyday!

July 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm
(2) raul says:

the smell from insects is before died or after?

December 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm
(3) peter says:

Debbie thanks for the article, very informative. However, I will say that after years of home remedy attempts I’ve come to the conclusion there is just nothing out there that stops mosquitoes completely besides a mosquito trap.

Sure I’ve had some mixed results with listerine, candles, and building bat boxes (well at least I thought so before reading this article) But all in all nothing does the job like my mosquito trap, I got it from http://www.mosquitomagnet.com some time ago and I’ve been extremely happy ever since, worth every dollar – I don’t miss those annoying pests one bit.

December 14, 2009 at 11:38 pm
(4) insects says:

Interesting, I’ll have to check that product out. Many people swear by the things you mentioned, though scientists insist there is no evidence they work.

November 20, 2011 at 9:28 am
(5) John says:

Thanks for your information.
When the county sprayed for mosquitoes they destroyed my extensive garden, flowers no fruit.
I had some pet bumblebees at the back end of my 500 foot lot – did you know that they will recognize you as a friend if you don’t kill them or run in fear at the first encounter. They have been there for a decade but now they are dead.
I have been meaning to get around to fixing the wasp nest located in the roof of my front porch – they are dead now.
My chickens used to chase bugs all day long but now there is nothing for them to chase.
Fishing has been bad here since the county wide poisoning and I think it is the runoff from this pesticide – even the pesky bait stealers are gone.
The bats, which I enjoyed in the evening are gone. In fact, all the birds are gone except the buzzards and hawks.
I don’t know how much of this I can blame on the Permethrin but when I look up the side effects they pretty well match up.
Have other people reported these problems and could encephalitis be better managed without poisoning the entire country?

June 30, 2013 at 7:58 pm
(6) Mindy says:

i feel your pain and hope we can find a better way to keep ourselves and our children safe from insects carrying diseases….killing everything it just not the answer…In my humble opinion, I think it’s more about profits and the bottom-line of corporations who make millions of dollars while pretending to be “saving” us.

July 18, 2013 at 10:09 am
(7) Joe says:

References? Citations?

August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm
(8) ben randall says:

dragon flies are big mosquito eaters,both as pupaes and as adults.purple martins devistate dragon fly populations. are we sure that martins don’t in fact increase the mosquito populations.

March 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm
(9) Darin says:

Wow. Misinformation based on….?

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