Bird baths are a great way to attract all sorts of different birds to your yard. However they can also attract an unwanted visitor, mosquitoes! Standing water close to your house can be a breeding ground for these blood sucking pests, making it miserable to spend time outdoors. In this article we will look at how to keep mosquitoes out of bird baths so you can provide water to your feathered friends without these prickly pests.
Why Are Mosquitoes A Problem In Bird Baths
For many of us, late spring through early fall brings the threat of getting bitten by mosquitos when outside. Mosquitos need water to hatch their eggs. Females lay their eggs on the surface, where they quickly hatch into a wriggling, larval stage.
Mosquitoes spend both the larvae and pupa stage of their life in the water. Larvae eat and molt several time, growing larger. In the pupa stage they stop eating and form a sort of casing around themselves where they transform into their adult fly form. The casing will sit just below surface where the adult can emerge and fly away. This whole process takes about 1-2 weeks but can happen in as little as 5 days.
Females will look for areas of stagnant, still water to lay their eggs. Most birdbaths are some type of open dish or tray with still water, a perfect spot to hatch mosquitos. This can quickly make your yard an unpleasant place to hang out in if you’re always getting bitten.
But more than that, mosquitos carry viruses that are transmittable to humans such as malaria, dengue, west nile, chikungunya, zika, and several forms of encephalitis. These can all be very serious health concerns if contracted. So it’s important to keep their spread down for yourself, your family and your neighbors!
How To Keep Mosquitoes Out Of Bird Baths
Luckily you don’t have to panic and dump out your bird bath. There are plenty of tactics to use to avoid mosquitoes while still making sure your birds have a place to bathe and hydrate.
1. Agitate the Water
Since mosquitos need stagnant water to lay their eggs, do the opposite and agitate your bird bath water! Anything you can do to keep the water moving and keep ripples on the surface will make it unattractive to mosquitos.
Water Wiggler: a water wiggler is a small device that sits in the bath and spinning metal legs create continuous ripples in the water. This both attracts birds and discourages mosquitoes. You can find several variations of this online, like this battery powered model that runs quite quietly.
Dripper: A dripper is a small tube that sits above a bird bath and slowly drips water into the basin. This is a gentle method of water agitation and doesn’t take up any space inside the basin itself. If you go this route, just make sure there isn’t too long of a time between drips.
Solar Floating Fountain: just plop it in the bath and you’re done. These simple fountains use solar power to create a gentle spray of water. You can let them float or hold in place with some rocks. However keep in mind they won’t work overnight so if you go this route it would be best to replace the water each morning.
Submersible Pumps: if your basin is deep enough, you can add a small submersible pump to recirculate the water. Use a simple pump and decorate it yourself with rocks, or you can get a pump that sits beneath a faux granite rock for a more natural look. These require electricity but you can always search for solar options.
Of course, a fountain bird bath has a built-in solution to this with tiers of cascading water, like this popular model on Amazon.
2. Clean Your Bath Frequently
If you can’t use a water agitator, you can simply make sure your bath is cleaned regularly. Remember, eggs can make it all the way to adult mosquitoes within a week, sometimes less. So make sure you are dumping the old water, giving it a scrub, and replacing with fresh water at a minimum of every 5 days. Every 2-3 days would be preferable.
Even if you do use a water agitator, baths still need regular cleaning and maintenance to stay fresh and healthy for the birds. A little dish soap or 1:9 white vinegar to water mix works well for cleaning. Use a brush to scrub out the basin and rinse well before refilling.
If you keep this up every few days, the larvae won’t have time to make it to adult flies. And by scrubbing the basin you will be sure remove any eggs or larvae that may cling to the sides.
3. Mosquito Dunks
A product that many people find helpful when dealing with outdoor water sources are Mosquito Dunks. You simply drop them in the water and it begins to kill mosquito larvae within a few hours. The active ingredient is a bacteria (BTI) that is known to be toxic only to mosquito larvae. The company claims that it is non-toxic to people or wildlife, and safe to use in bird baths, fish ponds and gardens.
They come in bits or larger rings, and last for about 30 days. Follow package instructions for how much to use and how frequently to replace.
4. Don’t Attract Attention
In addition to these methods, make sure you aren’t attracting additional attention to your bird bath in the first place by making sure to get rid of any other potential mosquito breeding grounds close by.
Trash can lids, watering cans, slow-draining planter pots, clogged gutters, kiddy pools, pet water bowls, etc. All these can be sources of standing water. Take a look around your property and make sure to remove any other potential breeding grounds.
By employing proper care, cleaning and maintenance of your bird bath, you can easily help prevent a mosquito infestation. Stagnant, neglected water is the perfect breeding ground for these blood sucking pests. Avoid this issue by keeping your bath clean, changing the water frequently, adding some movement to the water and making sure you aren’t attracting them to your yard in other places.
Melanie is an environmental scientist, birdwatcher, and amateur photographer. She’s been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and learning about birds of all types. Over the years, Melanie has identified more than 250 bird species, with sightings of the Atlantic Puffin, Hawaiian Goose, and Arctic Tern among her most cherished.