Bugs you can use to keep mosquitoes away include dragonflies, damselflies, spiders, water beetles, ants – and even other, non-biting mosquitoes!
Other animals that can also help keep mosquitoes away include fish, birds, and bats.
This article will explain more about the fascinating array of insects that help to keep mosquito populations down, and show you how you can attract them to your property or pond.
It will also help you to consider whether common pond fish and local species of birds and bats could help you keep the mosquitoes at bay.
- Dragonflies are one of the best insect predators on earth and can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a day
- They can be encouraged into your garden by setting up still water sources, such as bird baths or ponds
- Even a few dragonflies can reduce the mosquito count around your property
- Common spiders will eat mosquitoes that fly into their webs; two species of spider actually track and kill mosquitoes
- Water beetles catch and eat mosquito larvae under water
- One species of mosquito larvae eats other mosquito larvae!
- Mosquitofish, goldfish, minnows and guppies all eat mosquito larvae, and birds and bats eat flying adult mosquitoes
Dragonflies are one of the best predators of insects and have a particular taste for mosquitoes, as well as their biting relatives, the midges. They use their feet to catch mosquitoes in the air, and they use their teeth to eat them.
They even have teeth at their early, larval stage, when they swim in the water, and they catch and eat mosquitoes at this stage too.
The mosquitoes may be flying, and land on the surface of the water, or they may also be at their swimming, larval stage.
Nearly all of a dragonfly’s head is taken up by its enormous eyes, which can see in almost every direction to track its mosquito prey.
Dragonflies are such efficient predators that they caught up to 95 percent of the prey that was released near them in a Harvard University study.
Just one dragonfly will typically eat 30 mosquitoes in a day, and they can eat hundreds in a day: along with midges, mosquitoes make up the majority of their diet.
Because they have such a taste for mosquitoes, you will often see dragonflies around water sources, where mosquitoes are likely to live.
You can encourage dragonflies around your garden or property by providing still ponds, bird baths, and other sources of still water.
If you have a pond, though, and have fish and frogs, they will eat your dragonflies. (But fish and frogs eat mosquitoes, too!)
Encouraging water plants to grow around the edge of your pond will help, and so will placing flat rocks around the pond, on which the dragonflies can rest and watch for prey.
Even a few dragonflies in your garden will be enough to reduce the mosquito count at your next barbecue.
Related to dragonflies, damselflies are a little thinner and hold their wings at a different angle.
Like dragonflies, they catch and eat quantities of mosquitoes, tracking them with their enormous eyes.
Damselflies also have a better relationship with frogs and fish, being able to coexist in the same pond or body of water, so they may be a better option for you if you have an existing pond.
You can attract damselflies to your property in the same ways as for dragonflies: provide still water sources or a pond, with warm, flat rocks and water plants.
Since spiders will eat whatever insect flies into their webs, they do eat mosquitoes – but this relies on the mosquitoes flying in.
There are two fascinating spiders which actually track mosquitoes, and both of these are being studied.
The African “vampire spider” (Evarcha culicivora) chooses mosquitoes as its food because it wants the blood the mosquitoes have eaten.
It is the only animal known to choose prey based on what the prey has eaten. Eating mosquitoes when they are filled with blood makes the spider more attractive as a potential mate.
In Malaysia’s bamboo forests, there is a spider which, like a miniature cat, tracks and hunts mosquitoes, both in their larval stage and when they are adults.
This spider (Paracyrba wanlessi) doesn’t want blood, it wants the mosquito.
It seems to be hardwired to prefer them, as studies have found that these spiders will track and eat mosquitoes instinctively, even when they’ve never seen one before.
There is now great interest by researchers as to whether one or both of these mosquito-eating spiders could be used to fight the spread of malaria, a mosquito-borne disease which kills thousands of people each year.
Water beetles are happy to eat mosquitoes when the mosquitoes are early in their life cycle – when they are swimming water larvae.
Even the larvae of water beetles will eat mosquito larvae. Two beetles that love mosquito larvae are the water scavenger and the predaceous diving beetle.
Diving beetles (who can also fly) will live in water plants around ponds, as well as other still or slow-moving bodies of water.
They grab a bubble of air and take it underwater with them as they track and chase the swimming mosquito larvae.
Weirdly, there are mosquito larvae that eat other mosquito larvae – and the ones doing the eating are not the kind that bite humans.
The elephant mosquito, also called the mosquito-eater, has larvae that eat the swimming larvae of other mosquitoes. When grown-up, the elephant mosquitoes don’t bite anything; they feed on the nectar of flowers. It’s a win-win!
While it is rare that ants eat mosquitoes, there is a species in Borneo that eats mosquitoes which fall into the water-filled pitcher of the pitcher plant.
These unique ants can swim underwater, diving down to eat drowned mosquitoes, as well as mosquito larvae.
The plant benefits too, because the mosquito larvae would otherwise steal nutrients from the pitcher plant.
Perhaps unfortunately for crane flies, they look like really large mosquitoes.
There is a common belief that they eat mosquitoes, which gives rise to their other names of mosquito hawk, mosquito eater or skeeter-eater, gallinipper, and gollywhopper.
They are also known as daddy long-legs in some countries outside of the U.S.
Unfortunately, despite their reputation, crane flies don’t eat mosquitoes. In fact, they live so briefly at the flying stage that many of them don’t eat at all.
What else eats mosquitoes?
There are other animals you can encourage into your garden which love to eat mosquitoes. Here are some of the top-ranking mosquito eaters.
Yes, it’s named the Mosquitofish because that’s what it loves to eat! The mosquitofish (gambusia affinis) is the most effective mosquito predator fish you could choose for your pond.
An adult female mosquitofish can eat hundreds of mosquito larvae in one day.
In studies, mosquitofish have been observed to eat 167% of their own body weight in mosquito larvae. This is quite a feat when you consider how little mosquito larvae weigh!
In California, several counties distribute mosquitofish, free of charge, to residents who have ponds and swimming pools. This is part of a mosquito abatement program.
India has also introduced western mosquitofish into hundreds of ponds in an effort to control the mosquito population in bodies of fresh water.
Even professional pest controllers recommend this fish for mosquito control.
However, in some areas, such as Washington and Michigan as well as Australia, introduced mosquitofish have become pests by multiplying in natural waterways and eating the wrong larvae, changing the ecological balance of important local species.
If you keep mosquitofish in your pond, it is important not to let them transfer into other natural bodies of water.
You must check local regulations to see if mosquitofish are allowed in your area.
Goldfish like to eat mosquito larvae. If you want to give them an even better chance, choose goldfish with darker or striated colours, which can blend into the water better than the bright orange ones, which the larvae may see coming.
Consider buying smaller goldfish, too, as these can duck in and out of small places in water plants where mosquito larvae love to hide.
Golden orfe fish
The orfe, sometimes called the ide, is a bright golden-colored fish that eats mosquito larvae and other pests. Adult orfe has even been seen to jump out of the water and snatch flying mosquitoes out of the air.
Minnows love mosquito larvae, and they have the advantage that their populations tend not to get out of control in a pond or waterway (because larger fish eat them.)
In a University of Wisconsin study, minnows were found to be a better long-term solution than chemical options for reducing mosquitoes. They are also more ecologically sound, and even more financially viable.
Guppies are another readily available pond fish that eat mosquito larvae. They like to live in warmer areas, but in general they are easy to take care of and don’t even require a large pond.
Many birds eat mosquitoes, and they can eat hundreds of insects in a day.
You can attract birds to your garden by providing the basics that they need and enjoy: secure nesting places, bird feeders (with locally recommended food), bird baths and water bowls, and bushes and shrubs.
It’s also important to know that any chemicals you use outdoors, such as lawn chemicals and pest control chemicals, can affect bird populations. If you would like more birds, it’s best not to use them.
Plant indigenous species of trees, shrubs and flowers. Find out what plants are native to your area.
You might also consider getting some water birds, such as ducks and geese, or encouraging local water birds such as terns. These are all mosquito eaters.
Birds that especially excel at eating mosquitoes include purple martins, sparrows, swallows, warblers, downy woodpeckers, nighthawks, orioles, eastern phoebes, red-eyed vireos, and Eastern bluebirds.
While many people may feel nervous about bats, in reality they are docile animals and are beneficial in the right habitat.
In the US, two common bats are the little brown bat and the big brown bat. They are excellent predators of mosquitoes.
Bats are active at dawn and dusk, prime times for mosquito-catching.
To encourage bats onto your property safely, you will need to provide bat boxes as housing for them. It is not safe to let bats roost in houses or outbuildings, because they can carry rabies.
Bat boxes can be purchased, or can be constructed yourself.
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