You love relaxing on the lawn, but it’s turned into a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Inviting natural predators can help make your yard less attractive to these flying insects. But what eats mosquitoes in your lawn, and how can you attract these mosquito-eaters?
From the mighty mosquitofish to carnivorous salamanders, plenty of critters will relish a mosquito buffet. Keep in mind that some creatures won’t pair well together, so you’ll need to decide which animals you want to attract and maintain (fish, for instance, might eat dragonfly larvae).
We’ll show you eight insects, birds, and amphibians that can eat mosquitoes in your lawn and how to invite them.
1. Aquatic Beetles
Are mosquitoes laying their eggs in your garden pond or water garden? Adult and larval aquatic beetles will gulp down mosquito larvae. Aquatic beetles include the predaceous diving beetle and the water scavenger beetle, which trap pockets of air underneath their wings so that they breathe underwater.
How to Attract Aquatic Beetles
- Add a garden pond or water garden with shallow areas to your yard.
- Maintain well-oxygenated water so aquatic beetles can breathe (well-oxygenated water will also prevent algae from building up).
- If you have fish, add vegetation around the pond so the beetles can hide.
- Add landscape lighting around your pond or water garden – aquatic beetles are attracted to light at night.
Keep in mind that aquatic beetles are not compatible with some mosquito-eaters. For example, while some tadpoles eat mosquitoes, aquatic beetles devour tadpoles. Similarly, fish will help eat mosquitoes, but they also eat aquatic beetles.
Bats have a bad reputation. Bats are often associated with diseases, nighttime horror, spooky caves, and vampires. But bats serve many useful purposes in the world, including keeping the insect population under control.
While bats won’t bring a mosquito population down to zero (they prefer hearty meals like moths and beetles), some evidence suggests that bats eat mosquitoes more frequently than previously thought. And remember, while bats do carry diseases, you should be safe as long as you leave them alone.
How to Attract Bats
- Mount a bat box 12 to 20 feet above the ground (or above the tallest vegetation beneath the bat box) and 20 to 30 feet away from tree branches. Install the bat house in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day and is not near artificial light at night.
- Add a water source to your yard, such as a garden pond or fountain.
- Grow plants that bloom at night. Bats are nighttime pollinators, and they’ll be happy to see their new home has other pollinators to eat.
- Purple martins
- Barn swallows
- Waterfowl (ducks and geese)
How to Attract Birds
- Hang bird feeders in your yard.
- Install birdhouses in your yard.
- Add a birdbath to your yard (empty the water every six days to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs).
- Plant bushes or trees that produce fruits, like berries and cherries.
- Plant a garden with native plants.
4. Damselflies and Dragonflies
Damselflies and dragonflies may look alike, but some key differences in their appearances can help you tell them apart.
Damselflies have delicate, slender bodies, while dragonflies have bulky bodies. Damselflies close their wings and position them vertically when they land, while dragonflies leave their wings open horizontally. Dragonflies are also strong fliers, while damselflies are gentle, fluttery fliers.
Damselflies and dragonflies are brightly colored with beautiful patterns. Not only do they add a bit of charm to your garden pond, but they’re mighty mosquito-eaters, too.
How to Attract Damselflies and Dragonflies
- Install a garden pond or water garden to attract dragonflies and damselflies.
- Plant submerged aquatic plants in your garden pond or water garden so that these insects can lay their eggs in the vegetation.
- Grow pollinating flowers so that damselflies and dragonflies can feast on other insects.
- Avoid the use of pesticides in your landscape.
Pro Tip: Don’t be surprised if your thriving dragonfly community dwindles after adding fish into the pond. Fish won’t hesitate feasting on dragonfly and damselfly larvae.
While you can let beetles and damselflies go about their business, adding fish to your pond is like adopting a new pet. Luckily, you won’t need to train fish to eat mosquito larvae, but you will need to maintain their habitat and provide them with food.
Fish that prey on mosquito larvae include:
The Gambusia, also known as mosquitofish, is the champion mosquito-eater. One 3-inch Gambusia fish can eat up to 100 larvae a day.
How to Add Fish to Your Garden Pond
To add mosquito-eating fish to your garden pond, head to a local pet shop and choose some fish to bring home.
Before you add fish to your water garden or pond, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure your pond is large enough for the fish you want. Some fish may outgrow the pond, or the pond might not be deep enough for their winter slumber.
- Get a pond test kit to ensure the water is healthy.
- Research the fish you want to choose and learn what water temperature they require. Before releasing the fish into the pond, float the fish bag in the pond water for 20 to 30 minutes so that the fish can slowly adjust to the water temperature. Otherwise, you might shock the fish if you introduce it (or them) to the water too fast.
- You may need a filtration system, depending on the fish you’re buying.
- Start slow. Wait one week or two before adding new fish to the pond. You want to be sure the pond is a healthy environment before adding all the fish at once.
- Learn how to properly maintain your pond and how to care for the specific fish.
- Add water lilies and aquatic vegetation so that fish can take shelter from predators.
Adult frogs might slurp up a mosquito or two, but mosquitoes aren’t a substantial part of their diet.
And while you can’t rely on all tadpoles to eat mosquito larvae, a few species enjoy the snack, such as the spadefoot toad and green tree frog.
How to Attract Frogs
- Install a water garden or garden pond in the landscape.
- Add aquatic vegetation to the pond.
- Don’t use pesticides in the yard.
- Say no to fish: Fish are natural predators of frogs and tadpoles.
- Keep the water a bit murky. Frogs aren’t fans of crystal clear water.
- Create caves and crevices with stone piles so that frogs have a place to hide and access shade.
Salamanders are carnivores, and they’ll hunt down just about anything that moves in the water, including mosquito larvae. And it doesn’t hurt that salamanders are beautiful to look at, too, with their bright spotted patterns.
Pro Tip: You may sometimes hear salamanders referred to as newts, but not all salamanders are newts. Newts are a type of salamander, and they’re commonly found wiggling around garden ponds.
How to Attract Salamanders
- Build a garden pond or water garden.
- Stack stones or logs around the pond so that salamanders can hide underneath.
- Ensure salamanders have access to sun and shade.
- Avoid pesticide use in your yard.
- Attract salamander food sources, such as worms, slugs, and insects.
Eek, spider! As much as spiders might make your skin crawl, spiders help control the Earth’s insect population. Without spiders, the insects would eat all our crops.
Instead of shouting curse words when a few spiders pitch their webs in your yard, you might want to thank them for snatching up some of the yard’s mosquitoes.
How to Attract Spiders
- Provide a bit of shelter, like an overturned flowerpot. Spiders will usually show up on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to help them out.
- Decorate with outdoor lights at night. These can help attract spiders, especially since the lights attract insects for them to eat (like mosquitoes).
Can Nature Alone Control Mosquitoes?
You’ve learned about eight animals that can eat mosquitoes, but are they sufficient enough to provide mosquito control on their own? The likely answer is no.
For starters, most mosquito predators require a garden pond, but you’ll likely have fewer mosquitoes if you don’t build a garden pond. Why? Because water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
On the other hand, if your yard already has bodies of water, these critters can provide you with some mosquito-eating assistance.
Another reason why nature alone isn’t always enough to control mosquitoes is that most animals eat more than just mosquitoes. In other words, mosquitoes are generally an insignificant portion of most critters’ natural diets.
For example, while the purple martin bird can provide some mosquito control, you might read or hear that the purple martin bird can eat about 2,000 mosquitoes per day (that’s a lot of mosquitoes).
But according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this statement is based on an estimated number of mosquitoes that would be required for a purple martin to survive if mosquitoes were its only food source.
What this means: A purple martin is more likely to eat a variety of insects than a whole diet of pesky mosquitoes.
That’s not to say the purple martin (or other critters) can’t be helpful with mosquito control. We’re simply saying that the bird’s mosquito control abilities are exaggerated at times.
When to Hire a Professional
Introducing natural predators that eat mosquitoes can help, but when a mosquito problem prevents you from enjoying your lawn, it’s time to talk to a professional. Contact a local pest control pro to learn more about mosquito management options.