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Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Mar 11, 2020 1:31 pm
Location: texas

Old data believed Martins ate thousands of mosquitoes daily. New studies seem to suggest they actually eat very few. What is the latest thinking on this? I have noticed there seems to be less mosquitoes when the Martins are still here and an increase in mosquitoes after the Martins leave.
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged

Here's my take on this. Others will probably expand and I hope they do

Purple Martins typically go to roost right at or before sundown depending on the individual bird. Your typical mosquito tends to become active at or just after dark. Therefore, their paths do not cross as much as one would hope. The other thing about this is that one of the Purple Martins favorite food is the dragon fly. We all know that dragon fly larvae feed on mosquito larvae so how much does that have an effect on mosquito populations?

You mentioned when Martins are around you see less mosquitos and when they are gone you see more. Not sure you can accurately make the connection as one of the largest factors in mosquito population is climate. The mosquito will flourish in warm wet climates. They need standing water to exist and breed. They don't like moving water such as streams and rivers. So. In those times you see more or less mosquitos look back to see if it was a hot dry summer or a hot to mild wet summer.

The old saying in the summer when at an evening outdoor event is "We need a cold hard freeze to kill off these mosquitos" That in fact is not true. Mosquitos will lay dormant in the cold and ice. When it thaws, they flourish. Go hang out in Alaska after the thaw. Mosquitos there will carry you away. Mosquitos in Texas, for example, are much smaller. You actually benefit from a long hot, really dry summer so they can't breed and flourish.

That' my $0.02.

Posts: 2936
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I don't think martins and mosquitos cross paths too often. Martins do eat a ton of dragonflies, you know what dragonflies eat????? Mosquitos. So it is possible that by having a martin colony eating dragon flies you can end up with more mosquitos.

I have never heard of any "data" that ever stated that martins ate mosquitos. I think it is more of an advertising ploy that turned into an old wives tale.....
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

I’ve posted before about seeing Martins feeding in the late afternoon right against the canopy of two very large pecan trees in my parents backyard. I do think they’re eating mosquitoes. Those trees are full of them.

At any rate I am sure that they don’t eat as many as some have been lead to believe and I know they don’t eat as many as some housing companies advertise that they do, but I do think that’s what the birds that I watch are feeding on.

Mosquitoes are always worse at our place after the Martins leave for the year but that could definitely be related to the time of year. They start leaving in June and are usually all gone by early July, so they’re only here for our first summer month. The mosquito population is building during that time, not at peak levels
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
Bird Brain
Posts: 151
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2016 9:22 am
Location: Highland Village, TX
Martin Colony History: 2017-nothing
2018-1 visitor
2020-the most visitors/activity by far after making many site improvements. Unsuccessful SY Male visited for 2 weeks.

Mosquitos hover at an altitude of 5 or 6 feet, the same altitude as their victims. Martins feed an altitude of around 200 feet. Mosquitos also stay close to shrubs, bushes, trees and structures where martins can’t go. There is no nutritional value to a mosquito. 1 calorie or less is my guess. By the way, bats don’t consume large amounts of mosquitoes either for the exact same reasons. I’ve had a bat colony for years and have never noticed a mosquito reduction. There are some small spiders that build webs behind my shrubs. I believe they trap a few skeeters in their webs, but I doubt they bother to eat them. Tree holes are the most overlooked breeding ground for mosquitoes in my opinion. Look for tree holes in your yard and fill them. Their are articles online explaining how.
Last edited by Bird Brain on Sat Mar 14, 2020 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Every time I kill a house sparrow, I make the world a better place.
Posts: 258
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:13 am
Location: Kentucky/Morehead

Martins eat salt marsh mosquitoes. There are numerous types of salt marsh mosquitoes and some are large, are active during the day, and travel up to 10 miles inland in large groups to feed on cattle and horses. Perfect prey for martins. Dave Duit posted details about the origin of the mosquito story at the link below from this forum on July 4, 2017. ... es#p271948
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon May 18, 2015 9:54 am
Location: Eastern nc

Regarding mosquitos, I read about a study many years ago that indicated that martins at times do eat mosquitoes. There are times during the year when several types of insects are swarming due to leaving their nest at the same time, moving a nest or mating. Somehow the martins become aware of this activity. Then they will feed close to the ground. Apparently they fly through a cloud of swarming insects with their mouths open collecting some of the flying insects. They mash up what they catch into a ball. Analysis of the balls indicated the presence of some mosquitos.

Regarding dragonflies, I saw a video of a swarm of dragonflies apparently eating honey bees. Martins hunt mating fire ants, honey bees and dragonflies high in the sky. It is fun to look way up in the sky and see a soaring martin suddenly begin a chase, then fold its wings and literally fall out of the sky. It opens its wings near the ground and swoops up into the gourd with a big dragonfly in its beaks. It is amazing that the nestlings can get that thing to go down.

So if there is any validity in what I have read and seen, martins are both beneficial and problematic.
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