Miss Floribunda - August 2008

Dear Miss Floribunda,

I am proud to report  that my back-yard organic vegetable garden is doing fine, and I am harvesting all kinds of tomatoes, squash, eggplant and beans. My problem is that it is agony to do so because of mosquitoes.  These are brazen and come out in broad daylight. I've looked all over for standing water but don't see any and can't figure out where they could possibly be breeding. I don't want to use poisons or messy emulsions.  What can I do?

Eaten Alive On Emerson Street

Dear Eaten Alive,

The only mosquito that comes out before dusk and can breed in almost no water at all is the dreaded Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian tiger mosquito. It was unknown in our country before 1985. Because we've had regular rainfall this summer it can find enough water within leaves or in moist indentations in the lawn. I consulted with Dr. R. Cain again, who suggested that you use garlic spray on these blood-suckers.  Spray the area in and around your garden some morning during a dry period--two days before rain is expected is ideal. Garlic spray kills mosquitoes on contact without hurting honey bees or other beneficials. Application during a dry spell allows the plants to absorb the spray and emit an odor that repels the mosquito but which humans can't detect after the first few moments.  Mosquitoes can detect odors 10,000 times better than we can, according to Dr. R. Cain. In fact, they can find us by the odor of carbon dioxide we give off. This prompted me to ask  the  doctor if you could use the spray on yourself to repel the little vampires. I was rather disdainfully informed  that if the creatures were really vampires they wouldn't come out in the daytime and would avoid the mirror-like surface of standing water. The doctor recommended as a mosquito repellent for humans an easily concocted mixture of soybean oil, water and dishwashing liquid.

Another advantage of garlic spray is that it doesn't harm fish. Dr. R. Cain joins Mr. and Mrs. Minnowhaven  and Joe Fox-Glover of the HSS in recommending a fish pond to help keep down the mosquito population. This sounds counter-intuitive because standing water is just what mosquitoes like best, but the advantage is that the mosquitoes are lured to a place where the larvae they lay will soon disappear. Resist the temptation to stock your pond with koi, which are  beautiful but don't really eat much larvae and are themselves tempting to raccoons. However, if you love koi, you could add other creatures able to peacefully coexist with them but better at devouring larvae. Cheapest, most plentiful and most effective are minnows, tadpoles (hungry frogs-to-be) and goldfish feeder-fish. So even if raccoons do make a few raids on your pond, periodic replacement cost is nominal.