Don't Bug Me!

I am inclined to believe that I live in one of the best places on earth, but I will admit that life along the river has a few minor bugs. OK, maybe that’s an understatement. We have MAJOR bugs! Summer heat and the high humidity turn the Mississippi backwaters into a bordello for blood sucking Mosquitos. Ticks thrive in every field and wooded hillside, feasting on the abundance of deer and outdoor recreationalists. As the summer wears on, our own backyards become havens for wasps, flies, and hornets. Filling the hummingbird feeders or entertaining guests in the midst of a swarm of Yellow Jacket has all the makings of an episode of Fear Factor.
Man has tried desperately to control his environment, often with disastrous results. Some methods of pest control used by city, county and state agencies have negative effects on populations of plants and wildlife other than the targeted pests. Even the products we use in our own yards can have cumulative effects on our immediate environment and the health of the river. As much as I would love to spend a bug free night gazing at the stars, I would not want that pleasure without a chorus of frogs and crickets to serenade me.
Mosquitoes seem to be the buzz this summer. West Nile Virus is in it’s fifth year and though the mortality rate in humans is very small, the virus remains a real concern for many people. West Nile has had a far greater impact on wildlife, and birds have been especially hard hit. Spraying insecticides has done little to hinder mosquito production and in some cases it can make matters worse! Adult dragonflies eat adult mosquitoes and aquatic dragonfly nymphs eat lots of mosquito larva. Some chemicals used to control mosquitos can end up in the dragonflies that hunt them, and eventually in the birds and fish that eat the dragonflies. That’s a double blow for birds that are already suffering from West Nile!
Only a few species of mosquitos carry West Nile Virus. Of those, the biggest threat comes from a species that lives close to urban areas and breeds in stagnate water, Culex pipiens . Eliminating standing water goes a long way in curbing the problem but also consider long term solutions for your property. Invest in natural mosquito control.
Bats, Swallows and Dragonflies are known for their ariel hunting abilities. One Little Brown Bat can eat 1,200 mosquito sized insects in an hour! They live in small colonies during the summer months and migrate to caves in the winter were they roost with hundreds of other bats. Place a couple of bat houses in your yard this summer! If you are fortunate enough to have a colony already living in a building, consider letting them stay. As long as they can not get into the living space of your house you should have no problems with them. There is a maternity colony of bats in my attic. They raise their young, come and go as they please, and do a lot of talking, but they have never entered my home. They more than earn their keep by keeping my backyard relatively bug free!
Bats have gotten a bad rap when in fact they are very beneficial to man. They are generally timid and avoid human contact. All animals will defend themselves when they feel threatened and occasionally a bat will bite if it is handled roughly. Contrary to popular belief, bats rarely carry or transmit rabies. Less than 1% of all confirmed rabies cases reported each year in the US can be attributed to bats. Most species of bats that have been linked to rabies cases are solitary bats, not colony roosting bats like the Little Brown Bat. In fact, there is no evidence that a Little Brown Bat has ever transmitted rabies to a human. Have no fear, bats make great neighbors!

For more information on low impact pest control just ask..
I am the Wild Bird Lady...
and I'm out there...

Resources:
Bat Conservation International
(click on site maps)


Kelly Larson
Northern Flights Wild Bird Store
Bemidji, Minnesota 218-444-3022