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Pesky mozzies help to keep environment 'balanced'

IT'S summer, and as the sun sets, the little troublemaker buzzing around your ears and legs needs no introduction.

While you may never be convinced to love or even simply ignore mosquitoes, there are a few interesting things about them that may make you think twice before whacking them.

Backyard Buddies is a free program run by Australia's Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.

Each month, you get a Backyard Buddies email (B-mail) with tips to make your backyard inviting and safe for native animals.

Ms Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, has the buzz on mosquitoes.

"Not all mosquitoes will bite you. In Australia, there are more than 300 species of mosquito," Ms Bradshaw said.

"However, only a small number of mosquito species will bother you when you're trying to get to sleep, or have dinner outside this month."

"In fact, only a female mosquito will bite you, and she does so during her short two to three week life in order to gain the protein she needs for egg development. As well as blood, she also feeds on nectar and plant fluids, which is all that the male mosquito feeds on," Ms Bradshaw said.

"He doesn't bite us at all, and he lives for an even shorter amount of time than the female," said Ms Bradshaw.

"To reduce the numbers of mosquitoes around your place, you need to know a little bit about their life cycle," Ms Bradshaw said.

"Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in still or shallow water, often in a shaded area. Many mosquitoes don't travel very far from where they were born, so you can reduce the mosquito numbers around your place by ensuring that you don't have still water sitting around."

Tips to reduce mosquito numbers:

  • Try putting sand in the water dishes of your plant pots to soak up excess water, and clean out your bird baths at least once a week.
  • Ensure your gutters are clear of leaf litter or even grasses that have started to grow, as this traps water up there and makes it a perfect spot for mosquitoes to lay their eggs.
  • If you have a tyre swing or tyres around the garden, drill holes to allow rainwater to drain out of them.
  • If you have a septic tank, install fly mesh around the breather pipe for the tank, so mosquitoes can't get in and breed.
  • Similarly, if you have a rainwater tank, make sure there are no holes mosquitoes can enter from, and screen off the overflow and inlet to prevent mosquitoes laying their eggs in it.
  • If you have a pond, you can install a small fountain or other device to keep the water moving, so it is less attractive to mosquito mums.

"There are also plenty of native predators for mosquitoes around. If you make your garden a friendly place for mosquito-eaters, you're less likely to have many mozzies around," Ms Bradshaw said.

A backyard pond is great for frogs, their tadpoles, and native fish - all of which are natural predators of mosquitoes and their aquatic larvae.

Aquatic dragonfly babies, called 'nymphs', also help control mosquito numbers by eating mosquito larvae underwater.

Pacific Blue-eyes, a fish native to the Brisbane area, will eat mosquito larva but not tadpoles, so they could be a good addition to your pond.

Avoid adding non-native fish like gambusias or goldfish to your fishpond, as some are extremely aggressive and cause big problems if they escape your pond during an overflow and enter a natural waterway.

Microbats are also fantastic mosquito predators. To attract microbats to your backyard, install a microbat nestbox to provide a lovely home to these efficient insect-eaters.

Finally, to reduce mosquito numbers a simple thing to do is let spiders be.

You may have noticed more spiderwebs around during the warmer months.

This is because spiders have more flies and mosquitoes around to eat.

Spiders are doing you a service by eating up mosquitoes at the moment, so let them carry on their good deeds unhindered and enjoy the serenity of a buzz-free dusk.

"Mosquitoes are a food source for many other buddies. We actually need mosquitoes in order to keep our environment in balance. Try to think of that next time you hear the buzz and scratch an itchy bite," said Ms Bradshaw.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • While some people declare "Mosquitoes love me!", and it seems as though others are just born lucky and hardly get bitten at all, there is truth to their proclamation.
  • One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes. It looks as though genetics is largely responsible for this. Mosquitoes are also attracted to the carbon dioxide in your breath when you breathe out, movement, heat, and dark colours - which is why mosquito nets are often made of white netting.

For more information
To see if mosquitoes are in your area, please consult the Atlas of Living Australia.

You can search your location and see what species have been seen in it, or you can search by type of animal, click the occurrence records and display these on a map of Australia.

For local information, please contact the wildlife officer or bushcare co-ordinator at your local council, or speak to a ranger at your nearest national park office.

Topics:  mosquitoes



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