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Ecological Solutions to Your Mosquito Problem

It’s been a common refrain this season: the mosquitos in my yard are insaneI can’t be outside for more than ten seconds before getting bit. 

As landscape professionals who work outside every day… we believe you. We see it too. But our immense annoyance and frustration with these pesky creatures can lead to some pretty crazy human behaviors.  Daily, we see mosquito-prevention trucks out in our communities, spraying toxic pesticides all over the landscape in hopes that every mosquito in town will come alight on those surfaces and die an instant death. Ha!

Unfortunately, mosquitos fly and can easily avoid sprayed areas. Mosquito spraying is ineffective. 

Even more unfortunate are the other, unintended victims – beneficial insects, whose ecosystem value cannot be ignored.  In organic gardening especially, we rely on healthy populations of insects --from pollinators, to pests and the predators that predate them—to stabilize ecosystems in a natural way and produce thriving, beautiful gardens.  More broadly, we are currently facing rapid insect population declines globally– The Insect Apocalypse– as documented by scientists in Germany, Denmark, and the U.S. (and reported by the NY Times).  

We simply cannot afford to kill more insects with ineffective mosquito pesticides sprays. So, what are our options? What creative ecological solutions are available? 

Mosquito Dunks-- a larvicide that only targets mosquito larvae. They should be placed in mosquito breeding habitats – standing water—they will dissolve and kill only the larvae.  This is a very effective treatment that directly targets the vector of the problem.  Tropical regions of the world deal with their intense mosquito pressure by targeting the larvae populations in this same way. Our climate lately, with intense storm events every few days and record temperature heat waves in between, is not far off from the tropical climates that face the worst mosquito pressure in the world. This extreme weather pattern invites standing water and creates ideal conditions for mosquito breeding (it takes four to twenty-eight days for mosquito eggs to hatch in standing water).  Be proactive as you examine your landscape (and your neighbors!) after a storm event and treat any standing water you see with mosquito dunks. 

Protect Catch Basins – catch basins are often the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos. Clean them out often, and ideally, cover with non-woven geotextile fabric and gravel. This covering stops debris but allows storm water to infiltrate into the drain and storm water system. It also keeps mosquitos and light out. 

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Rain Gardens – Every property could benefit from a rain garden! What is it? A depressed garden filled with a gravel-sand-soil medium and planted with facultative wetland species – plants that can survive both drought and rain inundation.  The planting and soil medium allow for biofiltration of the storm water and percolation through to the aquifer, rather than pooling on the surface, which often happens with lawns. Plus, rain gardens require primarily native plantings meaning they attract hummingbirds, butterflies, native bees, dragonflies, and more! 

Invite Predators – As ecological landscapers, we rely on and encourage the natural predator-prey relationships in our local environment. One of the best mosquito predators are DRAGONFLIES! Dragonfly larvae spend their first months (even years!) in water, right alongside a tasty food source: mosquito larvae.  Adult dragonflies also eat adult mosquitos, gnats and other insect pests. The best way to attract dragonflies to your property is to create a pond habitat.  It should have multiple depths, exposure to sun and should not freeze completely over the winter.  Check out our Water Gallery for inspiration! Crucially, to make a hospitable habitat for any insect predator, your property must be maintained organically. Learn more about our Organic Lawn, Tree and Shrub programs. 

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Kathryn Saphire

VP of Landscape Development 

914-560-6570

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