June 8, 2012

A Day with My Water Garden, Mosquitoes, and Great Blue Heron

5pm Wednesday -- A Great Blue Heron* waits patiently for his supper. I watched him for over half an hour before he finally gave up and flew away.
*00PS! I stand corrected. A knowledgeable neighbor tells me this is a yellow-crowned night heron.

10am Thursday -- The goldfish come out from hiding to get their breakfast fish food.

10:30am Thursday -- It's a beautiful day with only a slight chance of rain. I'd like to do some work in the garden and then, if the mosquitoes will let me, rest and read in my secluded nook at the back of the garden.  So, I decide to use my new non-toxic garlic spray that I wrote about earlier this week.

5:45pm Thursday -- The ultimate test of the garlic spray. It's prime time for the mosquitoes to be out and about and I'm sitting in the garden, wearing shorts and short sleeves, for the coffee hour I usually spend on  my screened porch. I've had this outdoor furniture for years, but it never gets used during mosquito season.

I fully expect that I'll give up on this experiment and quickly head up that path for the haven of the screened porch.

7pm Thursday -- A new world record: over an hour sitting outside without a single mosquito bite!

My Water Pond and Mosquitoes
Last summer in the worst of our mosquito plague, I looked out the window and saw one of my neighbors down on her hands and knees peering into my pond. It's a common misconception that water gardens breed mosquitoes. But water gardens do not exacerbate the mosquito problem.

In fact, water gardens helps keep mosquitoes in check. Bodies of water attract dragonflies and damselflies; these creatures are often called "mosquito hawks." The average dragonfly consumes hundreds of mosquitoes every day. Dragonfly larva also eat mosquito larva. And water gardens like mine contain fish, which eat  mosquito larvae in the pond.

I have goldfish, and I also bought several mosquito fish from my neighbor Doug Dupin, a mosquito warrior. Doug has been offering what he calls "victory ponds" to his neighbors. He describes these ponds as little fish bowls containing a plant and mosquito fish. The mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of the water, and the fish quickly snap them up.

Bill Eck, my Bartlett Tree rep who warned against toxic, commercial anti-mosquito treatments (see http://bit.ly/KOqVZo.), reassured me that my water pond, with its fish and constantly circulating water from the waterfall pump, was not a likely mosquito breeder. But -- just to be on the safe side -- I also toss in floating mosquito "donut dunks" that kill mosquito larvae.

Most residential mosquito problems originate from standing water in downspouts, pots, toys, tarps, etc. I have a jar of small pellets that contain the same chemical used in the donut dunks, and I toss a handful of the pellets into my bird bath and a downspout opening on the ground where water collects... and any other place where I see standing water that can't easily be dumped out. 


Linda F said...

Lovely photos! The heron was gorgeous, and you're pretty cute, too!

Lynn Scholz said...

Thank you very much for you eco-friendly tips on mosquito control. I live in the Palisades because of the wildlife and mosquitoes are just part of the picture. I am also a beekeepers so I appreciate alternatives to pesticides. I too have a water feature with Doug's fish and since putting them in I have not seen a single mosquito larva.
Would love to hear any tales you have about the Dows and our house.
Sherier PL

Lynn Scholz said...

Oh, that's a yellow-crowned night heron and there's one nesting in a big oak street on Eskridge Terrace, perhaps your neighbor?
Sherier PL

Ellen Nunnelee said...

Very informative post.  Love your pictures, too.  What a great one of the night heron.  I have a pond but it's not as pretty as yours.  Ellen on Sherier Pl.

Rachelwtoo said...

I can't believe you had a heron in your backyard. Amazing. And what an amazing backyard! What street are you on?
5835 Sherier

Ruth Morris said...

John:  I did not realize you were such a fantastic gardner!!  We just came back from a DC trip - it was fantastic -- sorry we missed you.  I sent you an e-mail, however, it was returned.  Do you have a new e-mail address?  Ruth & Pat

Frankie said...


Gwendolyn Reyes said...

It would be a waste to give up cozying out in your garden just because those pesky mosquitoes won’t give you a break. Good thing you’ve found a somewhat permanent and organic solution to get rid of them. By the way, I love your garden! Although, I think you should consider cutting some unruly shrubs here and there to make it look more open. Have a good day!

Gwendolyn Reyes @ Tapestry, NJ