The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Mosquitoes in a Water Garden

I was at an open air party last weekend and the highlight was supposed to be the water garden at the premises. None of the guests had bargained for the constant buzzing and occasional bites of mosquitoes, though. This set me on a trail of investigation as to how best to deal with them.

So, what is the ultimate guide to getting rid of mosquitoes in a water garden? Moving water is the best natural solution to this problem. Adding mosquito larvae eating fish and floating plants such as water lilies will reduce the mosquito population.

A beautifully maintained water garden is something that many of us dream of when we think of designing our own garden. Water has a calming effect and adds an element of nature to any garden. There are, however, aspects one must keep in mind before opting for one of these.

Fact is that where there is water, there will be some pests that come along with it. Mosquitoes are the primary ones and they are quite a menace too what with the diseases that are associated with them. Of course there are chemical solutions for this menace but there is also a delicate ecosystem thriving in and around your water garden that needs to be considered here. In view of this, perhaps the best way out would be to go in for more natural ways to sort out this problem.

Most methods of mosquito control revolve around nipping the problem in the bud, or in other words, eliminating larvae growth. It is important to realize that mosquito larvae grow and breed in dark areas of still water. These larvae then follow their biological cycle to grow into mosquitoes that threaten the very outdoors that you wish to spend your time in.

The whole idea of getting rid of mosquitoes therefore is based around making these water bodies hostile to female mosquitoes so that they do not lay eggs. Doing this in ways that are environment friendly is the objective.

Mosquitoes not only become an irritant to enjoying a peaceful sit-around by the water garden, they are also possible carriers of numbers of diseases. It is in the interest of your family’s health and that of the entire community that you take responsibility for maintaining good upkeep and healthy environment. Dreaded diseases like West Nile virus, dengue, and Zika virus, spread directly as a result of mosquitoes and one needs to take steps to avoid these at any cost.

Ways to get rid of mosquitoes in a water garden

Chemical means

Although not a desirable option, chemical methods need to be adopted and used with caution and advisably under supervision in order to tackle the mosquito problem. Indiscriminate usage can lead to unmanageable side effects and harm the ecosystem in irreversible ways at times, let alone leaving larvae immune due to over exposure to chemicals.

  • Bti. Bacillus thurigiensis israelensis is a commercially available chemical that is the most popular means of mosquito control available to water garden owners. The best bit is it uses a naturally occurring bacterium which is not harmful to other life forms in an aquatic system. Bti kills mosquito larvae effectively while not posing a threat to humans, fish or other aquatic plants that are naturally part of the ecosystem in a water garden. What more could one ask for? This is available in the form of Mosquito Dunks commercially. One can also search for them by the name of Mosquito Bits. They come in doughnut shaped units for home use. These discs stay afloat on the surface of your water garden. They also come in the form of granules that can be spread around the edges of your water body. These need to be changed once a month to be most effective. The product is also available in liquid form for commercial use.
  • Oil. One of the most trusted and indeed oldest methods of mosquito control is using oil. These create a film over the water surface, thus preventing larvae growth. Unfortunately they are not very aquatic life friendly and can mess up the delicate balance in water gardens. It is wise to use them judiciously in the surrounding areas where water might accumulate in the garden rather than directly in the pond; for example, pots and shallow areas in the garden where there might be standing water. These are oils specifically available with mosquito control agencies.
  • Methoprene. Again a chemical alternative that is not really friendly to plants and smaller life forms found in water gardens. It is tested to be safe for humans though. Similar to mosquito control oils, these can be used as a last resort in other parts of the garden having heavy undergrowth and moisture that are ideal conditions for larvae growth. It is advisable to use this in moderation and under supervision.

Natural means

Going natural is the best solution to any problem, more so in problems that nature throws at us. Such solutions are generally more in sync with nature herself and come with lesser and more manageable side effects. The cost to environment is also negligible in such cases.

  • Fish. Mosquito eating fish are the best natural method to keep mosquito growth at bay. The trick here of course is to keep the fish hungry enough to want to feast on mosquito larvae. In other words, do not over feed the fish in your water garden. What kinds of fish are the best for a domestic water garden? Mosquito fish, or gambusia affinis, are obviously the best choice as their popular name suggests. These look similar to guppies and are aggressive larvae consumers. However, they can get too aggressive at times and attack other fish too. Guppies, goldfish and killifish are some of the best ones for your water pond when it comes to tackling mosquito larvae. They are harmonious with other aquatic creatures too and you can be assured of a wonderful balance.
  • Plants. Aquatic plants are a beautiful way to combat mosquito menace in your water garden. Not only do they add to the overall visual appeal but also do their bit to control larvae population. What better natural way could one ask for? They work on the principle of reducing the surface area of water available to female mosquitoes in which to lay their eggs. In addition they also help establish a balanced ecosystem and help beneficial insects to thrive. There are different kinds of aquatic plants one might consider for adorning water gardens and discouraging larvae growth.
  • Water lilies.
  • Lotuses.
  • Marsh marigold.
  • Pickerel.
  • Cattail.
  • Rush.
  • Water lettuce.
  • Duckweed.

Floating plants like water lettuce and duckweed are easiest to maintain among all of the above. All you need to do is release them in water. However, they tend to grow invasively and dominate the water surface if left untended. Pruning and picking at regular intervals will help to manage them well and allow them to be most effective in controlling mosquito larvae growth.

  • Bats. Not everyone’s idea of an ideal water garden setup, bats come in handy to control mosquitoes in a natural way. They are night creatures who incidentally make a meal of mosquitoes. In the context of water gardens and controlling mosquitoes, there is no use crinkling your nose at the mention of these creatures. In case your mosquito menace is threatening to get out of hand, this is a solution to definitely consider. Your bat house need not be right next to the water garden or in any part of the front garden. You can always place the bat house in your backyard so as not to mess up with aesthetics. When night comes, they can be released to get their nightly feed of mosquitoes and keep your water garden free from these buzzing pests.
  • Smells. Ongoing research on mosquitoes has shown that there are certain kinds of smells that repel them. The best example is lavender, which is thankfully very likeable for humans. In addition to this, aromas like citronella, mint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and basil are some that are repulsive for mosquitoes. Surely most of these names are familiar to most of you; only difference being that, you have possibly come across these as aromatics and for their medicinal properties. In fact there could be no better way to deal with mosquitoes than planting some of these beautiful herbs and plants in your garden. Not only do you get to use them in different forms for addition to your cooking or as mood enhancers at home, they also help combat the mosquito menace effectively and beautifully (literally) for you.

Physical means

Some innovativeness, some good old toil and some common sense can achieve best results at times. A sensible combination of science and sense is what is needed to tackle the challenges thrown up at times. These often turn out to be the most practical and doable solutions to any problem.

  • Insect traps. Setting up insect traps close to your water garden is a good idea to trap and kill persistent mosquitoes. These come in a variety of designs and can be specially modified for outdoor use. They use non-toxic pheromones to lure in mosquitoes. Needless to say these physical appliances will need to be designed in a manner that they are able to withstand being outdoors and exposed to elements but still remain effective.
  • Sound. Mosquitoes also get repelled by certain sound frequencies. There is a booming market of mosquito repellent appliances that emit frequencies around 17 kHz which is considered optimum to repel mosquitoes. Installing one or several of these at various intervals in your garden could work as an effective repellent for mosquitoes. There is, however, some debate surrounding this solution and if indeed this will work. The only way to find out is to install one and check for yourself.
  • Removing organic debris. Terrestrial plants around a garden will shed leaves and debris of the organic kinds. These do find their way to water gardens and stay on the surface. These can become nurseries for mosquito larvae over time. Make sure to regularly remove them and any other debris from the open surfaces of your water pond. In fact, too many aquatic plants in your water garden might not be a good idea as well. Trimming them regularly will not only keep these plants in good health but will also allow the fish to get to larvae more easily.
  • Placing your water garden correctly. Give a lot of thought to the placement of your water garden. The more sun it gets, the better it will be for mosquito control. Ideally the setting should be such that there are no big trees around the water garden. This will prevent the water garden getting into the shade of the surrounding trees. Any dark and shaded place in watery surroundings is ideal for larvae growth. The entire exposed water surface should get adequate sunlight through the day. Keep this in mind when you choose the right spot to build your water garden.
  • Moving water. Directly based on the idea of disturbing the water surface to discourage female mosquitoes from laying eggs, moving water is one of the best solutions to the problem of mosquitoes in a water garden. Installing a water fountain is not only a good solution for this menace but also visually pleasing and aesthetically appealing. In combination with a water filter this can be a wonderful deterrent for the mosquito problem. An air bubbler is equally effective too. The same principle works here too, shaking and agitating the water surface enough to discourage larvae formation in the first place. In addition to tackling the mosquito menace, the sound of moving water is a wonderful relaxant for human ears. The sound can lull your senses into deep repose as you relax next to your water garden.
  • Water level control. Sometimes it is seen that all tested methods fail to keep the mosquito larvae growth under control. Instead of despairing at such times, it is better to let common sense prevail. Manually monitoring the water level in your water garden could provide a viable solution.  Normally water gardens are equipped with a valve in order to ensure there is optimal water level at all times. In other words, this valve allows water inflow up to a certain designated level before cutting supply off. This, however, means that the water level stays at that same place all the time, leading to algae growth and slimy edges at times. It is okay to deactivate the vale occasionally and let the water level drop some inches below this ‘normal’ level in order to expose the submerged edges for a period of time. Give them time to get the sun and scrub off any moisture retaining surfaces before activating the valve back and restoring status quo. It goes without saying that this exercise needs to be strictly monitored so that the fish and plants do not suffer from reduced water levels.
  • Checking for stagnation. Stagnation or still water is an invitation for mosquitoes, like discussed earlier. Let this not happen to your water garden. Keep checking at regular intervals for any signs of stagnation. You cannot rest at ease with just installing a water agitator. That is the problem with maintaining water gardens. Along the shallower parts of the water garden, there is always a chance of the water standing still and aiding larvae growth. The only thing there is to this is to get down on all fours and scrubbing out such areas in order to eliminate mosquitoes. After all when did one achieve something beautiful without some sweat and toil? In addition to water garden shallow areas, one also needs to keep a sharp eye around pots and lower surfaces in gardens. Also, do check around water taps which generally tend to drip and remain moist for larger parts of the day.
  • Watering your garden in the morning. A very effective and oft neglected aspect that helps in mosquito and slug control is the timing of watering. Given that a carefully planned garden will not only have a water garden but other plants as well means one needs to water them regularly. In case you have been watering your garden in the late hours or dusk, think twice. Unknowingly you might be encouraging larvae growth. Switching to morning hours is a great deterrent to mosquito breeding. The wetness and moisture gets to evaporate and dry out in the sun the whole day, thus eliminating comfortable settings for garden pests to breed in. One must effect a change in one’s routine if the same is needed in order to control larvae growth.
  • Clearing out leaves and undergrowth. Trees will shed leaves most of the time. The rate varies from season to season. There will also be undergrowth beneath big shaded trees that would probably be part of any landscaped and balanced garden. While it gives a lush and comfortable look to the outdoors, they are most likely hotbeds for trapping humidity and are also pockets of water retention at times. Being in the shade of big trees means there is not enough sunlight reaching these areas throughout an average day to help it dry out. Mosquitoes might thrive in such situations and deposit larvae, thinking it to be a safe spot. Make sure you clear out undergrowth regularly and dispose fallen leaves and twigs in order to prevent this.
  • Adequate artificial lighting. Studies show that light can be a repellent for many insects, mosquitoes included. How far this would be effective in an open space might be debatable though. One can still try to install light fixtures all around their garden and especially around a water garden to try and ward off mosquitoes. Solar light happens to be in a spectrum that can definitely keep bugs away. And you can see the buggers as they approach you more clearly. In addition, your garden benefits from artistically placed lights adding to the overall ambience.
  • Regular inspection. Whichever means you adopt, the onus of keeping your water garden in top shape and clear of mosquitoes rests ultimately upon you. The only way you can actually ensure that all your methods are working, or not, is to go out there and check physically. Is the filter clear or clogged by debris? Is the sound repellent working in the outdoors or has conked off? Do the trees around the water garden need trimming? That is finally the most effective way in taming the mosquitoes and having your own little piece of heaven all to yourself.

With all of these tips, you will be able to keep the area around your water garden free from mosquitoes and the tiresome diseases that they bring in tow. A beautiful water garden is made with the intention of creating a relaxing and idyllic surrounding and not for being on the lookout for these pesky creatures while waving your arms around or moving around covered up and trying to imitate a mobile tent. This is definitely the ultimate guide to help remove mosquitoes from your water garden.

What are some challenges that water gardens pose?

  • Keeping the water crystal clear is something that adds beauty to a water garden. Picture it yourself; a tranquil corner where there is clear water, aquatic life, and a clear surface that reflects the sky. Keeping it that way is a challenge of course. Algae have a tendency to thrive in water gardens and make the water murky. It is imperative to maintain the balance in the water to avoid this from happening.
  • A good quality pond filter is a must in order to ensure that water remains clean. The filter needs weekly maintenance too in order for it to be effective. Charcoal is a natural filter that can be designed into your water garden in order to help keep water clean.
  • Placing the water garden in a place that gets full exposure to sun helps in avoiding algae growth. Keep this in mind when you choose the spot for yours.
  • Since there is a thriving aquatic life in any water garden, this immediately rules out excessive chemical usage. Manual and regular cleaning is a much better way to ensure your water garden is in top shape. Get ready for some weekly activity in order to keep it free of bugs and other menaces. You could not choose a better way to work up those biceps than scrubbing out your water garden once a week while being surrounded by nature. After all a lot of effort has gone into planning a beautiful one. You cannot spoil it using too many chemicals.
  • In view of the delicate ecosystem that is present in any water garden, it is not possible to clean out the water garden entirely at regular intervals. This will set back the natural evolution of a balanced environment in the water. It is better to keep a sharp eye and gently clean out at regular intervals. Monitoring this process is extremely important so that the fish and different plants are not starved of water at any point in time. Errors in judgment might be detrimental but that is the best way to learn and arrive at a perfect solution.
  • Along with mosquitoes, water bodies and dampness often create a perfect environment for slugs and snails. These do not add beauty to any garden, needless to stay. They are slimy creatures who damage plants too. Not to mention that accidentally stepping on one of these slow moving creatures is something quite repulsive. They pose quite a challenge to garden lovers and are quite persistent and tough to eliminate. Take steps to minimize moisture trapping in your garden.

Mosquito Reducing Products

  • Mosquito Dunks: A Mosquito Dunk looks like a small, beige donut which floats on standing water. As the Dunk slowly dissolves, it releases a bacterium which is toxic to all species of mosquito larvae. The active ingredient in Mosquito Dunks is Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti). Bti is a bacterium that is deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to other living things. Just float a biodegradable Mosquito Dunk in water troughs, koi ponds, birdbaths, rain barrels, animal watering troughs, elevator shafts, or any place where water collects and remains for periods of time. While floating, a Mosquito Dunk slowly releases a long-term biological mosquito larvicide at the water’s surface. This larvicide gradually settles in the water, and while it travels through the water it is eaten by the mosquito larvae growing there. When female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water treated with a Mosquito Dunk, the larvae will hatch and begin to eat the Bti. The Bti will kill the mosquito larvae before they can grow up to become biting and disease-spreading adults. Each Mosquito Dunk will effectively treat 100 square feet of surface water for 30 days or more. For less water, a portion of a Mosquito Dunk can be used.
  • Mosquito Bits: Marshy swampy areas inundated with larvae? Sprinkle Mosquito Bits (Quick Kill) as a shock to quickly annihilate the larval population. Corn cob granules coated in BTI, the Bits (do not last long but) provide a punch, turning water black with larvae, to a clear pool void of future mosquitoes. A week after application either supplement with Mosquito Dunks, for long term control or continue to add Bits on a bi-weekly basis. The Mosquito Bits are labeled to control Fungus Gnats in plant beds or pots! Utilizing a similar mode of action for control of mosquito larvae, the Bits, either sprinkled on the soil’s surface or mixed with potting soil prior to planting will kill fungus gnat larvae with the same safety and target specific control offered for mosquito larvae.

Related questions

Is it difficult to maintain water gardens?

To be honest, it is not really easy to maintain water gardens. They are things of beauty to the eyes but need a whole lot of care, constant attention and some involved technology in order to be at their best. Keep all of this in mind when you go in for one.

What pests does one need to be aware of in a water garden?

Maintaining a water garden means you should take care of various pests regularly. Some like aphids can ruin aquatic plants. Leaf mining midges and aquatic leaf beetles make a meal of floating leaves and create havoc. Identifying them and taking action will prevent infestation.

What are some water garden plants?

There are specific plants that thrive in a water garden. Aquatic plants like rain lily, taro and Japanese iris are some popular ones. In addition, pickerel and horsetail pond plants add immense beauty to any water garden. Water lilies of all hues are also popular water garden plants.

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