Using nature to help keep your yard insect free is not only economical but also educational and fun. Imagine a device that was can kill 1,000 insects in a single afternoon without doing any harm to the environment. Unbelievably, such a device has already been devised and could be flying past your window right now.
Birds such as barn swallows and purple martins are capable of eating pounds of mosquitoes and other insects. But they are not the only species of birds that are known for their insect eating. Robins, mockingbirds, chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers are just a few of the many species that are voracious insect eaters. The trick is to attract these birds to your back yard.
Some of these birds can be attracted with birdhouses or nest boxes, some by filling your feeders with the right seeds, and other are attracted by both. If you are concerned that feeding the birds will limit their desire to catch insects, don't worry. Most birds need insects to feed their young, which are incapable of digesting seeds. Plus, no matter how well stocked your feeder, insects provide birds with critical amounts of fat, protein, and potassium that they need to survive.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson suggests, "Different birds like different birdhouses. Do your research on the birds that are in your area and erect the proper house if you wish to attract them and keep them coming back to your yard."
Fill up feeders with a variety of seed types and hang out some suet treats. Once they learn to associate your yard with food, birds are unlikely to leave.
TIP: Susan recommends, "Do some research on birds in your area so you know which types of seed to offer."
It is important that you do not use insecticides if you have attracted birds because the drop in insect food levels will cause them to move elsewhere. Consider squirrel-proof feeders to keep hungry squirrels at bay. Place bird feeders high enough that cats or other predators can not intimidate birds.
TIP: Susan advises, "Be patient with bird feeders as it may take birds a while to discover them. Always keep bird feeders clean."
Almost every species of bird, except owls, will be attracted by a birdbath. Today, birdbaths come in all shapes and sizes. Your only limitation will be your pocketbook. From simple to elaborate, today's birdbaths have tons of options designed to help attract more birds to your yard. A birdbath should be no more than 3 inches deep in the center and have a rough surface that will enable the birds to have a firm grip. Place it far enough away from trees, shrubs, and fences that neighborhood cats won't prey on them. To attract even more birds, purchase a birdbath fountain.
Birdbath fountains are specially designed with fountains to attract birds. One drawback to these fountains is that they will need access to an electrical outlet. However, quite a few solar powered birdbath fountains have eliminated this hassle. Another added benefit to a birdbath fountain is that it eliminates standing water that can breed mosquitoes. Make sure you keep it filled with water, however, or you might burn out the pump.
If you live in a colder climate, consider purchasing a heated birdbath. Birds' need for water does not decrease in the winter, and a heated birdbath enables the neighborhood birds to enjoy the bath year round. Make sure you clean the birdbath at least once a month. Most birdbaths can be cleaned with a solution of vinegar and water (3/4 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water). You may need to scrub the birdbath with a stiff brush to remove any algae. Do not add algae killer to the water.