Ah, mosquitos. That tiny little creature that everyone hates. It’s like the 21st-century insect only a few of us can see. Even I get annoyed with those things sometimes when they come in big numbers. This post is about animals that eat mosquitoes and go as far as to be known as mosquito-eating machines or nature’s mosquito hunters.
My kids enjoy this topic and it doesn’t hurt to spread awareness about all animals including mosquitoes because we need them as well for our ecosystem to remain balanced.
Most of us think of the mosquitoes as small, blood-sucking flying insects that bother us to no ends. However, contrary to our belief, there are over 3,000 different mosquito species globally, out of which only a few are known for biting people or spreading diseases.
We would indeed go to any lengths to rid ourselves and our homes of these annoying pests, which is why we use several repellents and sprays to keep them away. But what if we told you that these insects could be taken care of naturally as well?
This article will talk about different bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, and insect species that are the natural predators of mosquitoes.
Birds that eat mosquitoes
With their rodent-like appearance, except for the forelimbs that have evolved into wings, the bats are the only mammals capable of a fully-sustained flight. These nocturnal creatures have over 1,400 different recognized species so far, which is how they form the second-largest mammal order (after the rodents).
The bats’ family can broadly be divided into two different categories: Microbats (Microchiroptera) and Megabats (Megachiroptera). Apart from their size, there are two main differences between the megabats and microbats; the first one is that while most microbats can use echolocation, megabats can’t; the second difference is that most megabats are fruit-eaters, whereas the microbats are mostly insectivores.
As you might’ve gathered by now, the microbats are the main predators of mosquitoes. These feed on various insects, including mosquitoes, crickets, moths, beetles, mayflies, termites, wasps, grasshoppers, caddisflies, and bees. Some of the microbat species that feed on mosquitoes are:
- Mexican Free-tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis)
- Brown Long-eared Bats (Plecotus auritus)
- Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus)
Blackpoll Warblers (Setophaga striata)
Weighing as much as a ballpoint pen, the Blackpoll Warblers are small passerine birds that belong to the New World Warblers’ family. They have a fairly tiny body with a white face, streaked brown back, and a remarkable black cap on their head, often used as an identification mark.
The foraging style of the blackpoll warblers is significantly different from the other warblers; they are relatively inactive and stay perched in thick vegetation where they can’t be spotted.
Being insectivores like the other warblers, these birds have a quite diverse diet that includes locusts, mosquitoes, ants, cankerworms, gnats, termites, lice, sawflies, aphid, and webworms. When they migrate in the winters, they have also been spotted feeding on seeds and berries.
Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica)
The Barn Swallows have been ranked as the most widespread species of swallows in the world. Although fairly common, these swallows have a remarkable appearance that sets them apart from the other species; they have a deep blue head, back, and upperparts, white underparts, with a brownish hue around their beak.
The feeding habits of the barn swallows are not much different from the other swallow and swifts. Because they cannot fly too fast, they usually hunt for insects in open areas or on the ground.
Additionally, they also pick their prey from walls, plants, and on the water surface. Although they eat all kinds of insects, large flies make about 70% of their diet, with aphids and mosquitoes contributing to the rest of it.
Muscovy Ducks (Cairina moschata)
Although insects like mosquitoes are a part of the diet of most duck species, if any duck specializes in eating them, it’s the Muscovy Ducks.
Endemic to Central and South Americas and Mexico, the Muscovy Ducks are a large duck species whose wild and feral breeding populations have spread to several states of the United States and many other parts of North America.
These ducks are sexually dimorphic, with the males being considerably larger and heavier than the females. Both sexes have a black and white body; although the back feathers of males are much shinier than the drab feathers of the females. The color of their beak varies in both sexes and can be pink, black, yellow, or a mixture of all these colors.
The muscovy ducks generally hunt for food by dabbling in the shallow water for aquatic plants, small-to-medium-sized fish, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, and insects like mosquitoes and other nasty bugs.
Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens)
Although the piculets’ subfamily consists of the smallest woodpeckers in the world, if you’re looking for the smallest woodpecker species in North America, Downy Woodpeckers are the answer.
These woodpeckers are completely black and white in appearance, which is why they appear to be a miniature version of the Hairy Woodpeckers (Leuconotopicus villosus). While their underparts are white, the black upperparts consist of white bars both above and below their eyes, along with white spots scattered on their tail feathers.
Although both sexes of the downy woodpeckers look alike, the males have a small but remarkable red patch at the back of their heads that the females lack.
Although the downy woodpeckers are omnivores, the insects and the larvae residing in the tree barks are a major portion of their diet. These woodpeckers mainly feed on pest insects such as mosquitoes, bark beetles, tent caterpillars, apple borers, corn earworms. Only a quarter of their diet comes from the plant materials like grains, berries, and acorns.
Purple Martins (Progne subis)
Although the Purple Martins are called “purple”, they’re not actually purple but have a blackish-blue plumage instead. However, when light falls on the iridescent sheen of their body, it appears to be deep purple or navy blue. Known for their agility and speed, these birds are the largest members of the swallow family.
Purple Martins are primarily insectivores and tend to catch their prey mid-flight. Their diverse diet of flying insects includes mosquitoes, bees, moths, flies, and so on.
Although the purple martins will eat mosquitoes when given the opportunity, mosquitoes don’t make a major part of their diet because these birds fly at a height where mosquitoes are rarely found.
Fish that eat mosquitoes
Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis)
As you can easily gather from their name itself, the mosquito fish are a voracious mosquito-eating fish species that are endemic to the eastern part of the United States.
These freshwater fish are also commonly referred to as “gambezi”. They were named “mosquito fish” because of their surprising ability to gobble down mosquito larvae; they can eat about 500 mosquito larvae in a single day. For this reason, mosquito fish are often used for the biological control of the mosquito population.
The mosquitofish are sexually dimorphic, wherein the males are smaller in size than the females. Even though these fish are useful for eradicating mosquitoes in a particular area, you’d be surprised to learn that the mosquito larvae only make up a small portion of their diet.
In addition to mosquito larvae, these fish also eat zooplankton, water beetles, caddisflies, and mayflies along with their larvae, and other aquatic invertebrates.
Goldfish (Carassius oratus)
Goldfish are undoubtedly the most popular aquarium fish in the entire world. Although most people expect all goldfish to be golden-orange in color, there are many other color varieties found in these fish, such as yellow, red, brown, white, and black.
Apart from their coloration, the goldfish are also known to vary in their shape, size, and fin configuration. Belonging to the carp’s family, the goldfish are endemic to East Asia and were selectively bred for more colors in China about 1,000 years ago.
Being a freshwater fish like the other carp, the goldfish prefer to inhabit slow-moving or still water, just like the mosquito fish, which makes them obvious predators of the mosquito larvae. They are omnivores and feed on detritus, other small insects, and crustaceans in addition to the mosquito larvae.
Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
Also known by the names of “Rainbow Fish” and “Million Fish”, the Guppies are a tropical freshwater fish species that rank among the most popular aquarium fish species. These live-bearing fish have high adaptability and are known to thrive in diverse environments.
Although the guppies have been named after the rainbow, they’re sexually dimorphic with only one sex being blessed with various colors: the males. The females, although they’re longer in size than their counterparts, usually have a drab grey body.
Guppies are omnivore fish that are quite fond of the algal remains, making a large portion of their diet. Other than these remains, they also feed on mineral particles, plant fragments, and the larvae of insects like mosquitoes.
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
Belonging to the same family as the goldfish, the Common Carp are a freshwater fish species that are endemic to the lakes and rivers of both Asia and Europe.
Although these fish were earlier found only in these two continents, they have been introduced to all parts of the world after their domestication. The common carp have adapted to all new regions so well that their name has been added to the world’s 100 worst invasive species. They are also referred to as the “European Carp”.
The common carp are omnivores in nature and can easily sustain on a herbivore diet of the aquatic plants. However, they prefer to scavenge the bottom of the water for small insects, zooplankton, and crustaceans to feed on. The crawfish and benthic worms are one of their favorites.
Although these fish don’t seek out mosquitoes or their larvae actively, if they come across them, they will certainly feed on them.
Reptiles that eat mosquitoes
Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Also known as the “Red-eared Terrapin”, the Red-eared Sliders are a semi-aquatic turtle species that belong to the family of the terrapins or marsh turtles.
Although these turtles are native to the southern parts of the United States, they have grown as an invasive species in many different parts of the world. Because of their attractive appearance and calm temperament, the red-eared sliders are quite popular as pets.
Being omnivores, these turtles feed on a variety of aquatic vegetation, small fish and insects, including mosquitoes, and dead and decaying amphibians.
Amphibians that eat mosquitoes
Green Tree Frogs (Ranoidea caerulea)
The Green Tree Frogs are an Australian species of tree frogs that are quite common as pets due to their docile nature. Although they are omnivores, their diet mainly consists of insects like moths, cockroaches, mosquitoes, and locusts.
Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopodidae)
The Spadefoot Toads are a family of North American toads that have 7 separate species. Because of their vertical pupils and the absence of their parotoid glands, these toads are not considered to be true toads.
They’re usually dull green or brown in color which helps them blend in with their surroundings and avoid detection. The diet of an adult spadefoot toad consists of flies, crickets, mosquitoes, snails, caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders.
Insects that eat mosquitoes
Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata)
Every time you look for the insects that are the main predators of mosquitoes, the names of dragonflies, and their less-popular cousins, damselflies, are bound to pop up.
They are predatory insects and have a similar diet of flying insects such as mosquitoes, butterflies, midges, moths, and bees. Additionally, some larger dragonflies are also known for eating other dragonflies.
Jumping Spiders (Salticidae)
Known for having the best vision among all arthropods, the Jumping Spiders are a large family of spiders that consist of over 6,000 recognized species. As their name suggests, these spiders are known for their agility in jumping, which comes in handy when hunting down their prey or trying to escape a sudden threat.
The jumping spiders have a varying diet. While some species are purely carnivorous, others drink nectar. It is the predatory jumping spider species that feed on many small insects including mosquitoes.
Pitcher-plant Ants (Colobopsis schmitzi)
Also referred to as “Diving Ants” or “Swimming Ants”, the Pitcher-plant ants are an insectivorous species endemic to Borneo’s island. These ants are popular for their unique feeding technique.
They have a strange understanding of the pitcher plants, which is how they enter their pitchers to retrieve the arthropods caught by the plants and feed on them. Mosquitoes are one of the most common insects that these ants find in the pitcher fluid.
Conclusion: What Animals Eat Mosquitoes?
As part of my research in creating this blog post series on how animals eat mosquitoes, I learned that there’s so much more to it than I had originally assumed. It was really cool to see the variety of ways each animal did so. In a way, that makes me feel better about the battle we humans have in trying to eradicate mosquitoes!
This article does not claim to be a comprehensive list of animals that eat mosquitoes. However, it is good for a glimpse into the wonderful and diverse realm of mosquito-eating animals.
If you feel like there are more animals that eat mosquitoes out there we should add to the list, let us know!