Water Gardens: Lure and Kill Mosquitoes!

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Mosquito Anatomy – Mariana Ruiz Villarreal LadyofHats – Self made based on this websites between others: [1], [2], [3], [4].


Water gardens: Lure and kill mosquitoes? Huh? Yes, build a small water garden for mosquito control. Why not attract the little pest to a lovely little water garden that is also the home to hungry mosquito predators? Building a small water garden is a way to introduce a low or no cost natural mosquito killing ecosystem in a yard, on a patio or even on a balcony. Interested? Read on about creating a water garden to lure and kill mosquitoes by attracting dragonflies, damselflies and creating a home for mosquito fish.

First a little info about mosquitoes

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CDC Map of the Range of the two mosquito species which carry the Zika virus.

Mosquitoes are a problem in many parts of the world.  Mosquitoes carry many diseases that are deadly and/or debilitating.  Certain mosquitoes can spread specific human diseases. In some areas of the world mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are such a problem that they significantly impact settlement or development. For example in the early 1900’s the Panama Canal project was nearly derailed because of mosquito borne diseases. During the early days of colonization and exploration places like the Panama and even Eastern NC, where I live, were slow to be colonized and developed because of mosquito borne diseases. The Zika virus is the most recent example of a mosquito borne disease. The CDC map shows the range of the two mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus.

We certainly don’t want to catch a mosquito borne disease. So how about enlisting the support of three new friends: the mosquito fish, dragonflies and damselflies.  Each of these creatures can be quickly introduced into your back yard with minimal effort and at a low cost. How? Construct a small water garden!

Next let’s get to know the Mosquito Killers (your water garden will be their home)

FIrst, The mosquito fish:

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Mosquito Fish – Clinton & Charles Robertson from RAF Lakenheath, UK & San Marcos, TX, USA & UK

These hearty fish can survive in a wide range of temperatures from near freezing to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Additionally the fish can survive in low oxygen environments. The fish are a bit larger than guppies.  The large females eat up to 100 mosquito larvae a day. If you look in a ditch and see a small fish swimming there there is a good chance that it is a mosquito fish.  I have mosquito fish thriving in Dragonfly Pond behind La Casita.

Second, Dragonflies and damselflies:

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Dragonfly – HaleYadthore, KRNagar, Mysore India, on 13 Oct 2007.

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Damselfly – Mathias Krumbholz

There are many species of dragonflies around the world and they all love to eat insects. The dragonflies can eat the insects on the fly. That’s right, they catch a mosquito or gnat and dine on the little pest while flying.  An adult dragonfly is a vicious predator of mosquitoes, gnats, flies and almost any other flying insect it can catch. More diminutive but no less ruthless are the damselflies. These flying jewels are smaller than dragonflies and eat smaller insects like mosquitoes and gnats. However, unlike dragonflies, damselflies usually ambush their prey from a perch rather than catching and eating their prey on the fly.  So, if you were unfamiliar with dragonflies and damselflies, now when you see these creatures flying you’ll have a better appreciation of these the airborne and waterborne insect assassins. That’s right dragonfly and damselfly nymphs attack mosquito larvae in the water.   For more information, pictures and video I recommend reading 10 Surprisingly Brutal Facts About Dragonflies .

If you build a water garden they (dragonflies and damselflies) will come (the mosquito fish will need your help).

An article from the National Wildlife Federation, Attracting Aerial Acrobats to Your Yard A small pond, coupled with the right habitat conditions, will help you attract dragonflies and damselflies to your garden, provides a good primer for establishing a dragonfly pond.  If you live in an apartment, a condo or don’t want to dig a large pond you might be saying … oh,  just another idea I can’t use.  Don’t distress there are right sized solutions that can be adapted to your patio, balcony or yard!

Use Water Gardens to Kill Mosquitoes!

So, you have a condo in the city and you have a mosquito problem.  What can you do? Simple.  Build a micro environment for your mosquito predators…a pond in a pot.  Two of the predators will love the new habitat while one may just come to visit.

What you will need:

1 – A sunny spot on your porch, patio, balcony or yard.

2- A container that has sloping sides like a birdbath or even a child’s plastic pool.

3- Rainwater, well water or spring water that is chlorine free.

4- Water plants like iris, pickerel weed, water weed, water hyacinth etc.

5- Mosquito fish

Assembling water gardens

1- Find and place your container in the sunlit location. Be creative.  Use what you have. Here are some container ideas: an old cooler, a birdbath, an old bathtub, a small children’s plastic pool, a half barrel… even a milk jug with the top cut off could be your micro environment (the smaller the container the less likely it will be to attract dragonflies).

2- Place some structure like rocks or sticks in the container where mosquito fish the nymphs of the dragonflies and damsel flies can hide.

3- Fill the container with water.  If you are using chlorinated water wait about a week before moving to the next steps.

4- If your container has steep sides consider placing a stick or rock in the container to simulate a sloping edge.

5- Find some native aquatic plants. Plants that you see growing in ditches and ponds in your area are what you are looking for.  Plants like cattails (for larger containers), water lilies or even water hyacinth are good easy to find plants that grow in many locations. Plants that are native to your area may be more likely to attract local dragonflies and damselflies.

Need more ideas?

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Water gardens come in all shapes and sizes

Just do an image search on Google.  I searched for “pond in a pot” Here’s a picture of my search results.  As you can see there are innumerable ideas out there to help you build your small water garden which will host three new friends…mosquito fish, dragonflies and damselflies.

Build a Small Water Garden

Build a Small Water Garden

Need even more instructions? Ok, read this nice detailed article from Deep Green Permaculture . Now go and build some small water gardens to construct your own beautiful and elegant solution for controlling mosquitoes.

I’ll be building some small water gardens like these for both La Casita and my home next door.  I already have one…for my Facgardenebook Fans that visit my page La Casita in Swansboro…it is the birdbath to which I added water hyacinth and mosquito fish. Presto…an elegant solution for mosquito control in minutes

A final note: Sanitize, Sanitize

Standing water in gutters, children’s toys, swimming pools, ditches, trash cans, old tires etc can harbor mosquitoes.  Look around your home to sanitize those potential mosquito breeding areas.  Read University of Florida publication Tips for Mosquito Control for more detail on the importance of sanitation in controlling mosquitoes. Sanitation is a top priority! Even a hollow tree can be a mosquito breeding ground. Do you have standing water around your air conditioner?  Just check your yard, neighborhood, gardens etc for anyplace that has stagnant standing water for long periods after a rainstorm.  If those places seem to have water in them for long periods of time consider introducing mosquito fish. Eliminate problem areas and provide small water gardens as described above.  Use your imagination to create your water gardens and let them grow.  Soon you’ll enjoy an environment around your home that is healthy, natural and nearly free from mosquitoes!

 

All the Best,

Jim Hamrick

Introducing New Plants to Dragonfly Pond

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Beard the goat at Dragonfly Pond

If you’ve stayed at La Casita then you know about our little Dragonfly Pond.  The pond is in the pasture next to a seasonal creek.  Last year we began to get a red algae that covered the surface of the pond at times.  This is understandable since the pond is not aerated and does not have any plants with the exception of bull rushes on the bank.

The mosquito fish (gambusia affinis) aren’t bothered by this nor are the snapping turtles that live in the pond. The namesake dragonflies are plentiful too.  However the pond is not very appealing to look at so I wanted to make some helpful additions of plants.

The goal is to oxygenate the water, provide shade, provide more surface area for nitrifying bacteria, cover for dragonfly nympths and add of course replace the algae with something more appealing.  I also want to add some additional wild life and household food sources.

I’m fortunate to have my old friend Norman Wells down the street.  He has had a koi pond for decades and sells a wide array of pond plants.  Here is a list of plants that Norman was kind enough to donate.

The New Plant Addtions for Dragonfly Pond

Lotus – American or Asian? I don’t yet know.  Either way if the planting was successful it will be an interesting culinary adventure since the seeds and roots are edible.

 

Water Lily – I think these are native white water lily variety.  I look forward to trying some of the leaves in one of the dishes described in this Mother Earth News article – Wild Food Foraging: Pond Lily, Squirrel, Nettles and More

Water Weed – A water oxygenating plant that provides cover for pond creatures.

 

 

Marsh Iris – With luck this plant will supply a spot of cover on the margins of my little pond.

 

 

Elephant Ear (Black Magic) – If it grows well I may introduce some more edible malanga or taro plantings.

 

 

Pickerel Weed – This native pond plant is an important food source for many animals.

 

 

windmillHopefully in a couple of weeks the Lotus and Lilies will have begun to populate the surface of the pond. I am still considering an aerator.  This aerator currently has my attention.  Maybe next year.