Naturally B AT T L I N G B I T I N G I N S E C T S
BY MELISSA SUT TON-SENG
Mosquitoes are a fact of life in Southeastern North Carolina. As soon as the weather warms up, swarms of biting,
buzzing pests make a morning of yardwork or an evening at the Little League fields a nightmare.
Hiking, hunting and other woodsy activities bring the possibil-ity
of encounters with ticks and fleas in addition to mosquitoes.
No-see-ums are the bane of a camper’s existence. All these little
creatures may have their place in the circle of life, but we’d prefer
that place to be far, far away from us!
Despite all that, North Carolinians aren’t about to let a few bugs
keep us from enjoying the great outdoors. Most of us combat the
summer onslaught with a generous layer of bug repellent, but many
repellents contain DEET, which some people are allergic to and oth-ers
avoid to reduce their overall exposure to synthetic chemicals.
So, what’s a nature-loving, natural-product-preferring Carolinian to do?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. Because mosquitoes need still or very slow-moving
water to breed, you can interrupt their life cycle by eliminating places for standing water to accumulate.
Dump buckets, cover rain barrels, and keep gutters unclogged.
Don’t keep things like old tires or watering cans out in the open where rain can accumulate.
It takes very little water for mosquitoes to lay eggs, so don’t overlook tiny pools in fallen magnolia
leaves or small yard toys. Level out uneven patches of ground where water remains after a rain.
In warm weather, the damp conditions of accumulated leaf litter can harbor adult mosquitoes.
Leave fallen leaves over autumn and winter months since they play an important role in
butterfly life cycles, and clear leaves away after several weeks of warm weather only if
mosquitoes are hiding among them.
To avoid attracting mosquitoes to doorways and outdoor living areas, switch out
exterior lighting to warm-colored LED bulbs that give off a yellow-orange
light and attract fewer insects than a cool blue light. LEDs are long-lasting
and use less energy, saving money in the long run.
Knock them off course
Putting a fan on the porch or patio can help. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, and they can’t stay
on course towards their next meal (that’s you) in the face of a common fan. Fans also disperse
the carbon dioxide and odors that attract mosquitoes to humans.
Encourage mosquito predators
Dragonflies and damselflies are natural predators of mosquitoes and
a welcome addition to a summer garden. Plant beneficial native species
like milkweed and black-eyed Susan that attract dragonflies, and with any
luck you’ll get butterflies as well. Spiders give some people the heebie-jeebies,
but they also trap and eat mosquitoes, so leave webs intact.
Introduce fish that eat mosquito larvae to backyard ponds. Koi, goldfish, guppies and
mosquitofish will make a meal of mosquitoes. Choose species with care. The western
mosquitofish, for example, is a voracious mosquito predator but is invasive and should only
be introduced in ponds with no connection to other bodies of water.