PATH INTERNATIONAL

Natural and non-invasive mosquito control

By Rebecca Himenez-Husted, PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee member

Natural and non-invasive mosquito control Mosquitos bring a lot of communicative diseases and concerns to equines and humans, and it seems like every year there are Equine Encephalitis, West Nile virus, and something new. While there are many mosquito repellent programs that are highly effective but costly or use pesticides and chemicals, there are other things to reduce the population of mosquitoes that have less impact on environment and your wallet.

1: MOST practical…. GET RID OF STANDING WATER - mosquitos can turn an egg into an adult bloodsucking insect in just a few days as the water gets warmer in the spring and summer. Standing water in paddocks, old buckets, tires, under parked equipment behind the barn, or ANY other place that even a FEW tablespoons of water they can breed in. Adult mosquitoes are susceptible to infection by a practical infectious agent = the spores of the soil bacterium Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis (BTI). Infection with BTI makes the larvae unable to eat, causing them to die. BTI pellets are readily available at home and gardening stores, easy to use (simply add them to standing water), and only affect mosquitoes, black flies, and fungus gnats. Treated water remains safe for pets and wild animals to drink. The disadvantages of BTI are that it requires reapplication every week or two and it doesn't kill adult mosquitos.

2: be CREATIVE: - Use mosquito fish in your ponds and large water sources - they eat the larvae of mosquitoes more effectively than ANY poison and don't hurt the environment! They also are hardy and breed like crazy if you protect the fry.

3: Encourage Natural Predators: - Dragonflies are mother nature's F-16 for mosquitoes - they prefer a pond with natural plants to breed in and their larvae are ALSO predatory. Whatever you can do to encourage a natural pond habitat will help these amazing insects help you prevent mosquitoes in the first place! They are VORACIOUS and fun to watch, too.

4: Bats have bad reputation, but are very beneficial to have around: - Bats are often feared for transmitting rabies and other communicative diseases. However, bats are safe to have around as long as you have some safety precautions, and they are great animals to have around the barn for pest control. Protect and encourage bats with bat houses and habitats that bats need. These amazing animals eat their weight in insects EVERY DAY in the spring and summer seasons - at night when the mosquitoes are really active. All of the negative publicity they get from uninformed folks has hurt their numbers in the USA - but their good far outweighs the bad! Here is some tips to get started with bats - https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a20706363/how-to-attract-bats/

5: Build Homes for the beneficial birds: - Protect and encourage swifts, barn swallows, purple martins and many other types of birds that specifically eat small insects by making places for them to build their nests (barns are a favorite! but also bridges, chimneys that are abandoned, etc.) Adding bird seed feeders, large brush piles, and allowing Mother Nature to landscape the edges of your properties instead of mowing every last square inch to make it pretty for humans to look at will really attract the birds and lizards that eat TONS of mosquitoes and insects. You can get more ideas here - https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/15-ways-to-make-your-yard-more-bird-friendly/

- Just to add some fun to the program participants, staff, and volunteers… Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a program and App called eBird, https://ebird.org/home , an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. People can contribute to data collection, look up birds, and find out the birds in their area. It may add some fun and joy while contributing to the science. A combination of these methods will educate your volunteers and students about more natural ways to keep poisons out of the environment we and our horses live in. Bringing nature closer to our homes and facilities is healing in many many ways.

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