There is so much talk about regarding mosquitoes these days, especially with the threat of the Zika virus. Currently, all cases of Zika in the U.S. have been acquired during travel outside of the country; however, concern over disease-carrying (vector) mosquitoes has increased.
According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, there are about 60 different species of mosquitoes in Alabama. Some carry disease (vectors), some are nuisance species (bloodsuckers, but not vectors), and some are beneficial species. The beneficial mosquitoes actually feed on the “bad” mosquito larvae helping reduce their numbers.
To most of us, a mosquito is a mosquito, period. So how can we control mosquitoes around out home? The Extension Office offers these tips:
• Get rid of anything on your property that will hold water, such as tires, tin cans, bottles, tubs, etc.
• Clean roof gutters and drain flat roofs.
• Stock ornamental pools with mosquito-larvae-eating fish.
• Change the water in birdbaths, fountains, and troughs at least twice a week.
• Use plants that attract other insects such as dragonflies and certain aquatic beetles that feed on mosquito larvae.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, and empty them when not regularly used.
• Drain standing water and turn over unused wading pools and other containers that collect rainwater.
• Cover rain barrels with window screen to keep mosquitoes out.
Pesticides can be harmful to mosquitoes’ predators as well as the mosquitoes. There is one chemical-free method of defense against pesky mosquitoes: bats. I know some of you immediately thought about rabies and tangled hair!
The truth is, bats are gentle creatures. If you leave them alone and let them fill their bellies with the bugs that bug you, they won’t be interested in you at all. If a bat ever does look like it’s aiming for your head, you probably have a bug flying near you that it wants for dinner. Scientists have tried to get bats to get into human hair without any success.
Bats groom daily and are very clean. Less than half of 1% of all bats actually have rabies. You are more likely to contract rabies from an unvaccinated dog or cat. However, that certainly doesn’t mean you should handle them. As with any wild animal, you must use caution and common sense.
Bats are incredible creatures and one of the most beneficial animals around! One small brown bat can feast on up to 1,200 insects in one summer night – 8,400 in one week and 36,000 in one month! Can you imagine what a family of bats could do to help reduce mosquitoes on your property?
Farmers love bats! They will feast on the insects that can cause damage to crops which helps reduce the cost of insecticides.
The next time you see a bat flying across the evening sky, remember those 1,200 mosquitoes that will be history by morning. Try to see them in a more positive light. Bats truly are misunderstood creatures.
By: Lynne Hart