Pollinators and other beneficial insects are dying out. Causes are multiple but the use of insecticides in residential landscaping is a biggie.
National Wildlife Federation’s blog offers simple advice on reducing the mosquito population in your yard. Getting rid of standing water, which harbors mosquitoes in their aquatic larval stage, is more effective than spraying your landscape for adult mosquitoes. And you avoid killing other insects.
Mosquito repellent is another way to protect yourself from bites without spraying your yard. However, DEET and other chemicals from the repellent still end up in our waterways.
Natural repellents smell nice, and avoid introducing poisons into the environment, but aren’t as effective.
The best solutions I’ve found for avoiding bites are: 1) screened outdoor space; and 2) what I call “mosquito clothes.” These are loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt plus long skirt or long pants. And SOCKS. Socks are key. Ideally, have your mosquito clothes be white or another very light color. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.
If you can avoid buying repellent, you’ll save yourself money and also cut down on your plastic consumption (all those little spray bottles).
Broadening the discussion to unwanted insects in general … Recently I heard someone quote Doug Tallamy (an entomologist who’s a big promoter of the movement to re-wild yards) as saying that if you have an insect problem in your yard, just back up 10 feet.
What I take from this is don’t micromanage. Let nature do its work. Also, many so-called “nuisances” are only nuisances in the eyes of humans. Almost any critter we hate is a food source for some critter we love.
My yard has a sizable population of “lubbers.” These are giant grasshoppers that eat almost any plant, and that have few predators because they are poisonous to eat. (Yep, one of the first things I asked when I saw the giant bugs is “Are they edible?” Alas, no. Apparently even fish spit them out.)
The first year I lived in my house, I thought my garden would never recover from the lubbers. But most plants survived, and those that didn’t survive were more likely killed by my grey thumb than by lubbers. This year, my second year in this house, I’ve been able to relax a bit, not panic so much at the sight of the chomped leaves.
I would not recommend using any insecticides in a residential yard. In many countries, they’re not even used on public lands or in agriculture. I once heard a fellow permaculturist say that a well-balanced ecosystem is self-policing. Although we have sent large swathes of the planet out of balance with our toxic and intrusive land-management practices, I still trust nature’s police force, even in an imbalanced ecosystem, more than I trust humans.
By letting go of the need to micromanage the insect population of our yards, we can decrease the volume of toxins in our immediate surroundings, on our land, and in our waterways, while saving ourselves a lot of time and money.
I still don’t like getting bitten by mosquitoes. But when I think of mosquitoes as dragonfly food, bird food, and bat food, I can appreciate their place in the web of life.