Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MOSQUITOS - July 2, 2009

I see from the internet that Dane County is suffering from a plague of mosquitoes. To a greater or lesser degree, that is the story every year, but the remedy offered each time seems to be restricted to long sleeves and insect repellents, which are far from adequate to the assault. There are things in the biological world that could make a difference, but they are not nearly free, so the WI answer is simply to bear it. Among the simplest is the fostering of animals that feed on the pests. Among these, the ones that come to mind most simply are bats, purple martins, and dragonflies. All have drawbacks, of course, but are affordable. The bats require a well insulated place in which to hibernate for the winter, and these need not be close to populations centers. Bats are prodigious in the number of mosquitoes each can eat, most notably at dawn and twilight, but also at night. If their centers were placed rurally, in areas closest to the swamps, they would not be a nuisance to people. And large colonies of bats could keep each other warm over the winter. Purple martins like to live in communal nests, and they eat mosquitoes in the brilliant sunlight. Like the bats, they would leave their droppings near the location of their multiple dwellings. Dragonflies are known in the area of New Orleans as “skeeterhawks”. It would cost a lot to breed millions, but the same swamps that raise their nymphs could provide plenty of mosquito larvae for nourishment. The US DoA raises multitudes of sterilized screw-worm flies to protect the cattle industry of the SW, so why would the safety and comfort of people not bring similar support? There are other means available from the biology of the pests, so why aren’t we investing in those for our health and safety?

1 comment:

Unknown said...


This is Jonah, one of the Kiosk engineers. When I listened to this commentary it reminded me of a recent letter a got form the UW inviting me to participate in a survey on mosquitos in Madison. The survey asked various questions about how much mosquitos impact my life and what steps I take to avoid or remedy the mosquito problem. I've lived right near next door to the arboretum almost all my life and dealing with mosquitos have always been a big part of my life. In addition to the survey, the UW has put together a website ( describing different remedies available and their relative efficacy.

In regards to Mr. Beck's commentary and his recommendations for biological solutions to the problem, according to the UW, these methods are basically ineffective - particularly bats and purple martins. Their explanation is that bats and purple martins are simply not enough of an impact to really make a difference. At one point we considered these options, but now it sounds like it's probably a waste of time and to me the explanation makes sense.

The one thing that I do believe makes a difference is reducing pooled water around your house and using bacillus thuringiensis ( to kill off mosquito larvae before they can hatch. This must be done early on in the life cycle though because if you wait to long the bacteria will have no effect. Also, I've heard that mosquitos can live and hatch in a drop of water and can even be dried for hours and revived as long as they get more water. So be sure things are kept dry for a while.

It sounds like the UW is working on a plan which they talked about in the survey but they didn't explain further. I'm guessing it must have something to do with pooled water and maybe the above bacteria to control mosquito population. At any rate, it sounds like their method will be environmentally safe and friendly which is good. I'd rather deal with mosquitos than be breathing in toxic chemicals. Hopefully they will do something soon!