Saturday, 24 March 2012

Wildlife That Bites

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen

It's been a wet wet wet summer, second La Nina year in a row, and all the dams and tanks are full. There are puddles in every hollow and anything left out fills up with water. I swore during the decade and a half of severe drought that we've just been through that I would never complain about rain ever again, and I'm not. The upside - flowing creeks, green hills, no catastrophic bushfire risk - is definitely worth it. But there is a downside.

It's a great year for mozzies.  

This week they seem to have all metamorphosed from wrigglers at once, and for the first time we have had to start putting the mosquito net over our bed down of a night. It's nice sleeping under a mosquito net, specially now the nights are a little cooler. But it is interesting that it is only now that they've managed to outbreed the predators, and I wonder why.

Up until now, the control measures for mozzies have consisted of what we don't do. We don't use glyphosate, anywhere.  There is still a lot of vigorous debate around the internet about the safety of glyphosate for humans. The Agrarian Urbanites had a great post a little while ago. My own opinion is that it is not just unsafe but evil in the same vein as Phillip Morris and James Hardie. But there is no debate, hasn't been for a long while, that it is deadly to frogs in minute minute quantities. The frogs around our place are very happy, very amorously noisily happy. We get used to it, but visitors remark about the cacophony. For a small creature, they make a lot of noise, and they eat a lot of mosquitos and wrigglers.

We don't spray or whack spiders, and only destroy their webs if they really are pushing the friendship by building across the doorway or the garden path. I know many people hate spiders - maybe it is a genetic, primal thing designed to stop our ancestors trying to eat them. But the feeling is mutual, and spiders have a lot more rational a fear. I took this photo a while ago. Once you realise what you are looking at, you can see literally hundreds of webs in the trees below our house. I defy a mozzie to make it's way unscathed through that lot!
We don't do anything at all about the microbats. Years ago, a pair used to live in my son's closet, hanging upside down from the hanging rail in the darkest back corner during the day. I took the photo at the top of this post one time when I found them sleeping in some doonas I had hung on the verandah line to air. Mostly I don't know where they live, but sometimes we hear them swooping around the bedroom, scoffing mozzies. I know there are bat-bourne diseases, but I figure I'm in way more danger from mosquito bourne diseases.

But now the mozzies have broken through the predator protection barrier, we shall sleep under a mosquito net at night, and use my lemon oil spray around dusk when they come out. It's very easy to make. In lemon season, I use a vegetable peeler to peel the outer layer of skin from a lot of lemons, enough to pack a glass jar full, and cover with rubbing alcohol.  After a couple of weeks, the peels all go white, the oil in them dissolved out into the spirits. It makes a great massage oil, and a small amount in a spray bottle full of water makes a nice smelling, lemony mozzie repellent.  

It's just coming into lemon season now, but I still have a jar full left from last year.  And I figure with the amount of noise those frogs are making, there should be lots of baby frogs to catch up before I run out.