At best, mosquitoes are annoying. At worst, they are vectors for a long list of serious diseases, including Zika, Dengue Fever, and West Nile virus.
Because of the risks these insects pose to humans, livestock, and pets, it is easy to forget that they are a natural part of a healthy ecosystem.
When we use extreme measures to eradicate them, we can quickly throw this natural order out of whack. Less radical tactics such as sprays, repellents, and DIY approaches aren’t as damaging to the natural order but are often temporary.
So how do you effectively reduce your mosquito population long term without resorting to extremes? You tap into that natural order.
Bats, dragonflies, birds, and many other animals prey on mosquitoes, naturally driving down their numbers.
In this article, we’ll tell you what eats mosquitoes and how to attract each of these helpful predators to your yard.
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What Are Mosquitoes Natural Predators?
Bats are one of the most prolific hunters of mosquitoes out there.
Anecdotal reports claim that these little flying mammals can eat as many as 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. While there aren’t any scientific studies into exactly how many mosquitoes a wild bat can eat, there have been a few that prove these flying rats really do love to eat bloodsuckers.
One of the more recent studies was published in the Journal of Mammalogy. These researchers scoured the roosting sites of dozens of colonies of bats and tested the guano for mosquito DNA. For one species of bat, Myotis lucifugus, they found proof of mosquito predation at 100% of the colony sites.
It makes sense that Myotis lucifugus, also known as the little brown bat, would be a prime mosquito killer. These bats are tiny, fast, and can maneuver incredibly well during flight.
But they aren’t the only bat species found to eat mosquitoes. Big brown bats and southeastern bats have also been studied for their mosquito predation. But there are dozens of other insectivorous bats in the USA that likely prey on these tiny insects.
How to attract bats to your yard
The easiest way to attract little brown bats and other species to your yard is to put up bat roosting boxes.
These tiny creatures need somewhere secure to sleep during the day. Without an adequate option, bats may visit your house, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come back night after night.
Bat boxes are easy to make at home, or you can purchase a ready-to-use Cedarwood bat house.
Hang your bat house 12 to 20 feet off the ground facing east or south to ensure adequate heat during the day. You can mount the house on your siding or a large tree.
Many people have concerns that bats, much like mosquitoes, can spread disease. While it is true that bats harbor an unusual number of diseases due to their unique immune systems, you aren’t at risk of catching these unless you come in contact with the bats themselves.
As long as you don’t bug the bats, they aren’t going to bug you. But they will happily spend their nights dining on the bugs that bug you.
Why just address your mosquito problem at night when you can hire day shift workers as well?
There are hundreds of species of birds that prey on insects, including mosquitoes. By attracting these feathered friends to your yard, you not only get mosquito protection but the joy that comes with trees filled with uplifting birdsong.
Some of the most effective American avian mosquito killers are:
- Purple Martins – These are the largest swallow in North America and come with an appetite to match. Their long, slender wings make these little birds very agile in the air. They are known to feed by “hawking” or zipping after mosquitoes and other bugs and catching them in midair.
- Barn Swallows – This smaller swallow species is no slouch in the mosquito hunting department. They can eat up to 60 insects per hour or up to 850 per day. And one of these agile birds’ favorite meals is mosquitoes.
- Bluebirds – Besides being an eye-catching visitor to the bird feeder, bluebirds are also avid bug hunters. Gardeners love them because they love eating grubs and mealworms, but they are also known to prey on mosquitoes. There are only three species of bluebirds in America, but they are fairly widespread.
- Cardinals – These traditional symbols of winter are also worth attracting to your yard in summer. In addition to seeds and berries, these omnivores will chow down on mosquitoes if they’re around.
- Waterfowl – You aren’t going to see ducks, terns, or geese flying after mosquitoes. But waterfowl will help keep your bloodsucker population down by feeding on mosquito larvae. The first half of a mosquito’s life is spent in the water, where they make up a large portion of the diet for many waterfowl.
How to attract mosquito-eating birds to your yard
For smaller insectivores like swallows and bluebirds, the best way to attract them to your yard is to put up nest boxes or colony houses. The birds will show up early in the year to build their nest, raise multiple families there throughout the summer, and then migrate away before winter.
Be sure to choose a house with the right hole size and set up to attract the specific type of birds you’re after. Barn swallows, specifically, prefer to nest in specialty cup nests that are meant to be attached to your house or chimney.
You can make a DIY cup nest like this:
Because many mosquito-eating birds also feed on seeds, putting out a bird feeder can also help attract these friendly predators to your yard.
Attracting waterfowl will require that you have a large pond on your property. If you do, be sure to keep the foliage around it in its natural state. Tall grasses and shrubs are essential for nesting behavior and make up a large part of the birds’ diets.
If you do have a pond or other body of water in your yard, you may want to consider stocking it with fish.
Many fish feed on bug larva in the water and won’t hesitate to chow down on some baby mosquitoes. Some species are even known to nab adult mosquitoes off the surface when they come to deposit their eggs.
Some of the most effective mosquito-eating fish are:
- Goldfish – These bright orange fish aren’t just great pets for young kids; they also make hardy additions to backyard ponds, stock tanks, and other areas with deep, standing water. Goldfish feed on larvae and adult mosquitoes. Their unique ability to breathe surface air makes them a great candidate for stagnant bodies of water.
- Bass – Bass are native to many areas of the United States and can be found naturally in large ponds and streams. Young bass feed on insects as well as crustaceans and smaller fish.
- Bluegill – Bluegills are another native fish species often found in lakes, streams, and ponds. They feed almost exclusively on insects and consume mosquito larva and adults who get too close to the water’s surface.
- Catfish – There are dozens of catfish species in America. All eat a varied diet that includes plenty of insects. These can be found naturally in large bodies of water or used to stock backyard ponds.
- Mosquitofish – Also known as Gambusia affinis, the mosquitofish is a tiny freshwater fish used worldwide to control mosquito populations. They are native to the Midwest but can be purchased for private use in isolated backyard ponds and lakes to eat mosquito eggs and larva.
How to get mosquito-eating fish to your yard
Unless you have a natural body of water in your yard that is exposed to flooding from nearby streams, you’ll likely have to introduce fish to your backyard pond or stock tanks by purchasing them.
This isn’t the only way. I once had a brown trout randomly turn up in my backyard pond—likely after some eggs hitched a ride on a heron’s foot. But stocking your water bodies is the only way to guarantee they get filled with fish.
Be sure to provide plenty of shelter for your new fish in the form of rocks, water plants, and overhangs. You may have to add fish food to the water, especially during the shoulder season and winter when mosquitoes and other bugs are less active.
4. Frogs and Tadpoles
Frogs eat a lot of bugs, but mosquitoes are rarely on the menu. Still, these amphibians can be a great addition to your natural ecosystem and part of your overall mosquito solution.
More important than the adult frog’s diet is the tadpole’s diet. These aquatic babies don’t often feed on larva, but they do ingest a huge amount of organic matter. One of their favorite foods is algae, which is also the primary food source for mosquito larva.
This resource competition can drive your mosquito numbers down substantially.
All frogs are suitable for out-competing mosquitoes, but a few take it a step further by actually hunting the adults and/or larva. The three American frog species that do this are:
- Spadefoot Toad – These American natives feed primarily on insects as adults but prefer larger prey than mosquitoes. The tadpoles often resort to eating small animals and insects—a unique trait among frogs. Spadefoot frogs lay their eggs in shallow water, often in the same areas utilized by mosquitoes.
- Green Tree Frog – This frog species is native to the South but can be found up the Eastern Seaboard all the way to New Jersey. The adults of these species do prey actively on mosquitoes, as do the tadpoles.
- Cuban Tree Frog – Cuban tree frogs are an invasive species in the United States. Originally from Cuba and the Bahamas, these frogs and tadpoles will eat mosquitoes but are more likely to feed on native amphibians and small mammals, making them a danger to natural ecosystems.
How to attract frogs to your yard
All frogs require water to breed, and many spend a good portion of their time swimming or hunting along the edges of ponds and swamps.
You can attract frogs to your yard by making your backyard pond as natural as possible. Planting native aquatic plants in the water and plenty of protective grasses and plants along the edge will encourage amphibious visitors to stick around.
Be sure to skip the chemical water treatments as frogs are especially sensitive to toxins. Plus, tadpoles need algae and decaying plant matter to feed on. Creating frog houses from clay pots and placing them around your pond will also help entice frogs to move in.
From the moment a dragonfly hatches, it is an insect-killing machine. As young, aquatic nymphs, dragonflies feed on any living creature that is small enough for them to catch, including mosquito larva.
As adults, dragonflies are agile hunters, swift enough to catch mosquitoes with ease. An adult can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per day.
There are many dragonfly species in America. All are insectivores, and all target mosquitoes and moths, butterflies, and other flying insects.
How to attract dragonflies to your yard
The easiest way to attract dragonflies to your yard is to build a water feature. Dragonflies need water to mate and lay their eggs. A pond with natural vegetation is most likely to attract these flying bugs.
If you don’t have a water feature, don’t worry. Dragonflies will cover great distances in their daily hunt for food. If you have many mosquitoes buzzing around your yard, odds are, they will find you.
But, to up the odds, you can plant flowering plants such as coneflower, penstemons, and other similar flowers. While dragonflies could care less about the foliage in your garden, these plants will attract the bugs they like to eat.
Another talented insect hunter is the spider. These arachnids feed on various insects and will typically eat anything small enough to bite and wrap up in their webs. While all spiders will happily eat a mosquito if they happen to catch one, some species are more likely to kill bloodsuckers.
Spiders that create large webs above the ground or within foliage that mosquitoes hide on during the day will catch more mosquitoes than spiders that hunt without webs or tunneling spiders who build webs near the ground.
Many spider species fall into this category, but the best candidates for catching mosquitoes are orb weavers. These fancy spiders spin large, round webs high above the ground. These webs are nearly invisible and work wonders for catching flying insects.
Once in the web, the spider will inject the mosquito with a toxin to kill and liquefy it. Then they will wrap them in silk and save them to eat later.
How to attract spiders to your yard
There are occasions such as this when you might want to attract spiders to your yard, as opposed to getting rid of them!
Spiders will follow their prey anywhere, but they will only stick around if your yard has what they need to survive.
Start by mulching your flower beds. This creates hiding spots and adds humidity to your garden, both things that spiders need.
In the fall, when the leaves hit the ground and your plants die back, leave the debris where it is. Spiders will use that cover to survive the winter so they can start hunting mosquitoes for you again in the spring.
To attract orb spiders, specifically, be sure your landscaping provides plenty of upright structures that these spiders can construct their webs between. Closely spaced trees, fence posts, and tall flowers can all provide great places for orb weavers to snare mosquitoes.
Invite Mosquito Predators To Your Yard!
Battling mosquitoes in your yard can seem like a losing battle. But you can take solace in the fact that you do not have to fight that battle alone.
By attracting mosquito-eating animals such as bats, birds, frogs, and insects, you can not only get your mosquito population under control but do it while helping restore balance to your native ecosystem.