Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Purple Martins and Mosquitoes

The rain and cooler weather have been such a lovely respite from out usual July. Last week we were sweltering, the soil had been transformed by the dry heat into powdered dust, and there seemed that no respite was forthcoming. And yet a reprieve did arrive and from the east, which is highly unusual since we receive our rain from the west. There is no second guessing Mother Nature, and this time we were truly blessed.

As a side effect of the rain we may expect a large influx of mosquitoes so be sure to dump any containers of standing water. While the male mosquito eats nectar, his lady is blood sucking as she needs it to complete the fertilization of her eggs. The eggs are deposited in a small amount of quiet water and it takes but two days for infant mosquitoes to hatch, squiggle about, and begin morphing into adults. Their entire 6 stage process of reaching adulthood takes but two weeks and most species live up to a month or more, with one living over 100 days.

The female mosquito is kind enough to produce a high pitched buzz, alerting that she has found a target. Her proboscis, which is long and needle-like, produces an anticoagulant to allow for blood flow and this chemical is the cause of the swelling and skin irritations following a bite. Mosquitoes are present everywhere on Earth, have a specific territory, and with exception of the newly arrived Egyptian species, most emerge at dusk.

The Purple Martin is a charming member of the North American swallow family with interesting flight habits, shiny steel-blue plumage, and an appetite for the mosquito. The Purple Martin gets all of its food and water while in flight, skimming the surface of a pond, scooping up water in its lower bill… they can consume over 10,000 mosquitoes a day!

Martins are a very people friendly little bird, nesting almost exclusively in man made houses provided for them. Long before the arrival of the first Europeans, Native Americans invited Purple Martins to take up residence by hanging hollow gourds for them. They migrate to Brazil for the winter and return each spring to their home, with the older Martins arriving first and the younger birds arriving two weeks later. For a natural and conservative method of mosquito control, they are simply the best alternative available.

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