Bug-eating birds in the city

A friend of mine has a lovely third-floor deck garden at his Center City home. He also has a major problem with mosquitoes and other insect pests (non-biting but annoying midges or gnats of some sort). Since he’s surrounded by other people’s roofs, there’s only so much he can do about standing water, the first place to start with controlling the mosquitoes, so this is an ongoing problem.

When we were talking about it last night, I jokingly suggested he put up a bat house, an idea he liked, or a purple martin house. Not sure either one of those critters would be attractable in an urban setting – are there birds that would be? This is in an old urban neighborhood, with tiny or nonexistent backyards, but it’s not like midtown Manhattan – there are a lot of huge old street trees, and he’s a couple of blocks from a decent-sized urban park (Rittenhouse Square, for thems as knows Philly). Not a huge amount of natural habitat, IOW, but not completely barren.

Any ideas?

Is the idea that the birds will control the mosquitoes? I can’t imagine that would make much of a dent at all. I essentially live in the woods. We have tons of birds and bats of all kinds all around our house. We also have a fair bit of mosquitoes, gnats, and other bugs during the spring. The birds may eat some, but not enough to keep our deck skeeter-free.

It obviously wouldn’t get rid of all of them – it would be a combination of helping with the bugs and the coolness factor of enticing some birds to nest nearby.

Air movement helps quite a bit for the midges/no-see-ums, ime. Some fans of some sort would likely help a bit, but no idea of sq/ft involved, etc. Even slow moving air keeps the tinier ones elsewhere (usually).

Mosquitoes can be repelled w/ citronella or similar, but not always too effective.

Using birds/bats to control insects is pretty minimal in effect ‘locally’. Bats will usually leave their roost and go elsewhere to do their hunting, ime. I lived rather close to a few bat ‘caves’ in Austin area long ago, and I would watch 'em leave and go away while I was swarmed by skeeters. If only they came out and started then and there! Another thing about bats is that when they drop outta their ‘house’, they piss/poop immediately (usually) and the ammonia-like smell can get pretty strong if not cleaned (when close to living areas). A quick story: I used to watch the bats leaving Congress Ave bridge in Austin frequently, and tourists would often sand under the bridges the bats dropped out of the cracks where they stayed. Those folks got peppered with that piss every time, and often would run off in whining disgust. Almost as much fun watching that as the bats themselves funneling away in the dusk.

Nothing wrong whatsoever giving birds housing so the density of birds increases there. But most birds won’t set up house where people frequent, so there is a ‘distance factor’. Been to try and fail than to fail to try - right? :slight_smile: It might help to leave nesting-type materials in plain view so birds use it and not go looking further away - I have all kinds of nests around me here as I purposely leave ‘nesty’ type strings and such out. Rarely is the stuff there very long as Robins, finches, etc come and go regularly from the feeder(s) and often pick up the stuff to take into the trees.

I watched a mating-pair of Mississippi Kites (smallish raptors with a nest high in tree right at side of house) yesterday hunting grasshoppers/bugs (? exact type), with one flying low over the knee-high grass with the other one close behind snagging the stuff that jumped up after being startled. VERY cool to watch such things, and I would tip them birds handsomely for such service if they would accept it from me :wink:

Possibly a good situation for a mosquito misting system. They can be installed professionally, or you can even get them at Home Depot and the like. The system involves running tubing (a bit like drip irrigation tubing) around the yard, with mist-heads. The control unit has a pressurized tank and a timer. At your chosen intervals, the system turns on and mists the area with pyrethrin, a “green” insecticide derived from chrysanthemums. The recommended interval will be something like three mistings a day for 30 seconds, so it doesn’t interfere with your use of the space much. And those brief sprayings are enough to keep mosquitoes from setting up shop in the garden.

Purple martin houses have all kinds of specific requirements so that you get actual purple martins living in them instead of sparrows or starlings taking up show. (They’re considered undesirable b/c they’re aggressive non-natives, and more pertinently, neither eats a lot of mosquitos.)

From one source:

a bat house on a post in a shaded area might work. they will feed in the immediate area if there is food and spread out in what ever feeding density works for their population.