City gardeners and farmers know they can save money and help the environment by cultivating rain gardens or using rain barrels to collect water, but some worry that conserving water in these ways will form active breeding grounds for mosquitoes. These pesky insects do more than just disturb gardeners and urban livestock with their incessant buzzing and biting — mosquitoes may also carry dangerous diseases like West Nile virus.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of standing water. Within two days, the eggs hatch into larvae that live in water for up to two weeks. Mosquito larvae come to the water’s surface to take in oxygen through a breathing apparatus that resembles a snorkel.
After resting in a pupal stage for a few days, the adult mosquito emerges. Male mosquitoes dine on flower nectar, while female mosquitoes bite and drink blood from humans and other mammals.
Fortunately, there are eco-friendly solutions to deterring mosquitoes from your city farm. Your first line of defense is to keep your rain barrels tightly covered with a lid after rainfall, but remember that mosquito eggs are extremely small and may still make their way through these barriers. You can take other ecological precautions to keep your standing water free of mosquito larvae and subsequent adult hatchings.
Your garden or farm already has nature’s own way of holding down mosquitoes. Birds and bats on your property will enjoy a hearty meal of mosquitoes and other unwanted insects. Some beneficial insects also dine on mosquitoes and mosquito larvae. For example, dragonfly larvae feast heartily on mosquito larvae.
To ensure that mosquitoes don’t proliferate in your rain barrels or ponds, consider eco-friendly water treatments.
One of the best-known treatments is the use of certified-organic mosquito dunks. These small, donut-shaped products slowly release Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), a type of bacteria toxic to mosquito larvae, but harmless to humans and other mammals. You’ll need one mosquito dunk per month during mosquito season for approximately every 100 square feet of surface water (regardless of the water’s depth). Unused mosquito dunks can be stored for long periods of time without losing their potency.
Quick Kill Mosquito Bits is another product that contains Bti and promises results within 24 hours. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the bits into standing water every two weeks during mosquito season to kill mosquito larvae before they can develop and emerge as adult insects. For longer-lasting protection, it’s a good idea to use a follow-up treatment of mosquito dunks, which tend to last longer.
Another product that’s designed to control mosquitos is called Mosquito Barrier. Its active ingredient is garlic juice. Sprayed on grass, plants and the lower leaves of trees, it repels adult mosquitoes. Sprayed on the surface of standing water, it prevents mosquito larvae from obtaining oxygen.
Keeping your garden and yard free of mosquitoes doesn’t have to involve toxic chemicals — use eco-friendly practices to keep these pests at bay.
About the Author: Linda Tagliaferro lives in the suburbs of New York City, where she and her husband enjoy fruits from their fig trees, their home-grown basil in pesto and their wild-growing milkweed that feeds monarch butterflies. She’s been a freelance writer for 20 years and has written over 40 books for children and adults.