As summer approaches, the desire to hang around with the family near bodies of water naturally increases. After all, summer days can be quite hot, and it’s preferable to find fast relief by taking a quick dip in the water. However, these wet areas, especially lakes and ponds, are key locations for mosquitoes to spawn.
If you want to be able to enjoy these areas without the risk of being bitten by a mosquito, then you may want to consider adding in animals that can decrease their population. One such animal you may consider is the frog and its pre-adult form, the tadpole. They can help reduce the chances of becoming infected with illnesses carried by mosquitos.
Among the chief of these is malaria. This disease has plagued humanity for centuries. It’s the result of over one million deaths. At least 300-500 million cases of malaria are still reported every year.
Perhaps the most famous–besides malaria–is West Nile Virus which seems to be becoming more of a threat with each passing year. There are four different variations of West Nile Virus. The one typically referred to as a fever is essentially a flu-like virus that can be treated without too much difficulty.
However, if the potent version of the virus is contracted, it can actually affect the nervous system. This can prove to be lethal.
Measures Against Mosquito Population
In order to control the spread of the mosquito population in certain areas, organizations have attempted to install non-invasive measures to combat them organically. Because mosquito killers, like chemicals, can sometimes harm the plant-life, wildlife and environment as a whole in addition to the mosquito population, other methods have been considered and used. One of those methods is by introducing known mosquito eaters.
Some of these are birds, fish, bats, and in some cases, even frogs. This article will discuss whether introducing frogs and tadpoles will actually help reduce the mosquito population and if they eat mosquito larvae at all.
What Do Tadpoles Eat?
Before they reach adulthood, tadpoles are primarily herbivores. They swim along the water looking for plants and algae to consume. However, there are a few species that have been known to eat insects–or even other tadpoles.
In North America, the spadefoot toad, green treefrog, and giant treefrog have all demonstrated as tadpoles their ability to eat mosquito larvae. This has also been shown in other parts of the world within the European green toad, sandpaper frog, Indian bullfrog, and the coronated treefrog species. As such, while they do prefer to eat plant life first and foremost, it is possible to find a few species to eat mosquito larvae.
What Do Frogs Eat?
It is when the tadpoles reach adulthood that their preference for insects begins to truly develop. Smaller frogs tend to stick with eating insects like flies, mosquitoes, moths, and dragonflies. The larger frogs, however, can eat grasshoppers and worms and may even consume small snakes, mice, baby turtles, and smaller frogs.
Interestingly enough, they will also typically choose to starve before eating a dead animal or insect. As such, while it is possible that an adult frog may consume mosquitoes, they do not do so at a scale that will greatly impact the mosquito population. At least, not alone, they won’t.
There is, however, another aspect of how frogs may inhibit the growth of mosquito larvae and thus the mosquito population.
When growing and developing as a tadpole, the organism actually competes for many of the same food sources and resources as the mosquito larvae. In areas of research, scientists have found that mosquito larvae can affect the growth of the tadpole population and vice versa. Essentially, whoever can get to the food source first, will have a negative impact on the species that it is competing with for that food source.
Mosquitoes lay around 100-400 eggs in what is called a raft. These eggs eventually hatch in the water and become the larvae that tadpoles compete within the natural world. These larvae essentially look like a worm about a 1/4 inch long.
The larvae require constant food because they need to grow quickly, and as such, are on the hunt constantly. They eat plankton, algae, fungi, and other microorganisms. Because of this need to constantly eat, a tadpole could potentially disrupt the population by reaching those food sources first and consuming them.
In addition, mosquitoes molt four times before they become an adult and fly off. Because of this increased time in the water, tadpoles actually have a greater chance of reducing mosquito population through consumption and competition than frogs do of adult mosquitoes.
So, if the tadpoles in a given pond are just a bit faster or better at perceiving food sources, and they consume these sources before the mosquito larvae can, then the larvae will eventually starve and die. As a result, you’re left with a reduced mosquito population. In this way, tadpoles can actually significantly affect the mosquito population in a given pond.
When everything is said and done, are frogs and tadpoles an enemy of the mosquito? If enough tadpoles are placed in areas where mosquito larvae are present, they could very well be. While adult frogs do not consume enough mosquitoes to put much of a dent in the population, especially if they’re able to search out other food sources, those who are looking to utilize natural food chains in an attempt to control mosquito populations may want to consider tadpoles instead.
It is through their competition for food with mosquito larvae where a true reduction in population can potentially be witnessed. Through sheer natural selection and survival of the fittest–two of nature’s oldest themes–mosquitoes may just meet their match at last. Considering how many people have died due to the illnesses carried by these insects, reduction of the population can’t be too terrible of a thing at all.