Love Thy Pollineighbor – June 2017
Pollinator protection does not have to be relinquished in exchange for managing mosquitoes. The impact of mosquito spraying on pollinators is long-lasting. Studies show wild bee populations are even more susceptible to pesticide exposure than honey bees due to biological and habitat differences.
Fortunately, here in Oregon, we don’t have to worry about Zika virus, and West Nile Virus (WNV) is of little concern in Jackson County. However, the presence of dead crows, ravens, magpies, sage-grouse, or jays in an area would warrant reporting, because wild birds are primary hosts to WNV. You can call ODFW wildlife health hotline: 1-866-968-2600.
Check-out the six actions you can take for managing mosquitoes while protecting pollinators.
Why are some people mosquito magnets?—Mosquitoes are drawn to strong scents found in perfumes, colognes, and shampoos. They also like the scent of cholesterol and beer. Scientists have learned that carbon dioxide, heat, lactic acid, and that deliciously-sweet scent of drying sweat are highly attractive to our blood-sucking neighbors.
#1: Standing Water Solutions—James J. Lunders, Manager & Biologist at Jackson County Vector Control stressed the single most important thing property owners can do to prevent a mosquito problem at home is to “eliminate all standing water on their property.” Because anything that holds water for seven days can produce mosquitoes. Last month, I shared tips for removing standing water. If you have mosquitoes around your pond or permanently standing water, try this:
- Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Mosquitofish are free to Jackson County residents via Vector Control. There’s a limited supply. Call 541-826-2199. Bluegills and minnows also eat mosquito larvae.
- Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is considered a relatively harmless biological larvicide that prevents mosquito larvae from developing into adults. It’s sold as dunks or bits for water that cannot be drained. Try the fish first.
#2: Attract Natural Predators
- Two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. They don’t, however, coexist well together as fish will eat dragonfly larvae. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae in the water, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control. To attract dragonflies, place perches like bamboo poles, tall plants, or flat rocks where they can sun themselves in and around the water. Add native water plants from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoid pesticides.
- Bats. One bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour. Did you know that bats live up to 40 years and are more closely related to humans than to rodents? Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house. Jacksonville local, Tim Short, sells his handmade bat houses for $45.00. Contact him at email@example.com.
- Hummingbirds snack on mosquitoes too! Attract hummingbirds with perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines.
#3: Repel with Plants—Master Gardener De Davis-Guy shared her mosquito repelling secret: she keeps two planters on her deck, one with lemon balm, citronella, lemon basil, and catmint and the second with horsemint, marigolds, and lemon thyme. Here are other plants to consider:
- Lemongrass (contains the oil citronella)
- Scented Geraniums on windowsills
- French Marigolds
- Lemon Thyme
#4: Personal Protective Measures
- Wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, hats and socks, and try to avoid being outside dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Turns out, the color of your clothing doesn’t matter, but wearing white in the summer feels cooler and Emily Post would approve.
- Keep a fan blowing while outside. This low-tech strategy may be the most effective for keeping the biting buggers at bay.
- When barbequing or at the fire pit, toss rosemary or sage into the flames.
- All-things lemon—plant it, rub it all over your body, or make tea. Test for allergies first!
- Avon’s Skin So Soft and daily B1 (thiamine) supplements may work for some.
- Avoid bug zappers, because they have been proven to attract mosquitoes without killing them and instead killing beneficial insects.
#5: Nontoxic Mosquito repellents—Poisoning yourself with toxic chemicals may not be the best approach to fending-off mosquitoes. If you’re in an area with Zika, the choices may be tougher. The intergoogle abounds with nontoxic repellents.
- A friend swears by Eco Smart.
- Beyond Toxics recommends Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
- Local aromatherapist, Nancy Cyr, shared a natural mosquito repellant recipe from the School for Aromatic Studies blog:
2 ounce spritzer bottle
10 drops Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
5 drops Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
14 drops Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
5 drops Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
Place essential oil drops (found in health stores) in bottle. Fill with water. Lemongrass must be diluted, because it can be a skin irritant. Shake well before each use. Spritz on clothing, hair, arms, legs. Avoid eyes and face.
#6: Mosquito Cappuccino? Not quite!—New research suggests coffee may be the future of mosquito control. Coffee was shown to kill larvae and deter mosquitoes from laying eggs.
Besides being a nitrogen-packed addition to your garden soil or compost bin, coffee grounds have another important purpose: A plate of smoldering grounds (fresh or used and dried) helps stave off mosquitoes. Bonus: smoldering coffee grounds may also help repel yellow jackets, but if not, try sliced cucumbers placed around your outdoor dinner.
What tips do you have? Share a comment online!