Birds Eat Mosquitoes, but Are Not a Miracle Cure

Natural Mosquito Predators That May Help

Nature reserve of the saw Mariola in Bocairent, Valencian Community, Spain.
Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Getty Images

When the topic of mosquito control is discussed, thrown into the mix is usually a fervent argument for installing purple martin houses and bat houses. Stores that cater to bird enthusiasts often tout the purple martin houses as the best solution for keeping your yard mosquito free. Bats, which may not be the most beloved of mammals, are defended with the claim that they consume hundreds of mosquitoes per hour.

The truth of the matter is that neither purple martins nor bats provide any significant measure of mosquito control. While both eat mosquitoes, the insect makes up a very tiny portion of their diets.

Other animals might have an upper hand on mosquito control, particularly in the fish, other insect, and amphibian classes.

Mosquito Munchies

For bats and birds, mosquitoes are more like a passing snack.

Multiple studies of wild bats have consistently shown that mosquitoes consist of less than 1 percent of their diet. In purple martins, the percentage of mosquitoes in their diet is slightly higher—about 3 percent, at most.

The reason is simple. The payoff is small. A bird or a bat that feeds on insects must invest considerable energy in flying around and must catch the bugs in mid-air. Birds and bats are usually seeking the biggest caloric bang for their buck. Given the choice between a mosquito morsel, a hardy beetle, or a mouthful of moth, the mosquito hardly makes the top-10 list.

An Efficient Mosquito Natural Predator

Gambusia affinis, also known as the mosquitofish, is an American fish that is utilized by some mosquito control districts across the country as a very effective predator of mosquito larvae. As far as natural predators go, the mosquitofish is by far the most efficient natural predator of mosquitoes.

The mosquitofish is a voracious predator. In certain studies, mosquitofish have been shown to consume up to 167 percent of their body weight in invertebrate prey, including mosquito larvae, per day. Mosquitofish, as well as small predatory fish such as guppies, can be quite useful in the reduction of mosquito larvae given the right conditions.

Other Mosquito Consumers

The closely related dragonflies and damselflies are natural predators of mosquitoes but do not consume enough mosquitoes to cause a significant impact on the wild mosquito population.

Dragonflies are often referred to as "mosquito hawks" for an unsubstantiated claim of being able to kill thousands of mosquitoes. One thing that does make the dragonfly a better predator than most is that, in the aquatic larval stage, one of their food sources is mosquito larvae. Dragonfly larvae can sometimes live up to six years in this stage. During this phase of life, dragonflies do the most damage to mosquito populations.

Frogs, toads, and their young tadpoles are often touted as excellent for mosquito control. In reality, while they do consume their fair share, it is not enough to seriously put a dent in vast mosquito populations. When frogs and toads do consume mosquitoes, it is usually after they have transformed from tadpole to adult.

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Hadley, Debbie. "Birds Eat Mosquitoes, but Are Not a Miracle Cure." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/birds-and-bats-no-help-with-mosquitos-3970964. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, October 29). Birds Eat Mosquitoes, but Are Not a Miracle Cure. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/birds-and-bats-no-help-with-mosquitos-3970964 Hadley, Debbie. "Birds Eat Mosquitoes, but Are Not a Miracle Cure." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/birds-and-bats-no-help-with-mosquitos-3970964 (accessed May 24, 2018).