News The buzz on mos­qui­toes

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS -

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 back yard invit­ing and safe for na­tive an­i­mals. Mos­qui­toes fea­tured in the Fe­bru­ary B-mail. Sign up for B-mail at back­yard­bud­dies.net.au

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.

‘‘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 mos- quito 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 back yard 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 back yard, 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. 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 ten 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.

ITCH­ING TO SMACK: You might be in­clined to whack them, but a few changes around the back yard will help stave off mozzies

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