Notes from Windward: #68


Pest Control

fishing for a better solution

Kerst writes:

     The challenge of maintaining our vegetable gardens and fruit trees through the dry months creates a number of issues, such as how to store a significant amount of water. Rather than using potable water from our main well to water the plants, we make frequent water runs down to our non-potable well and use that to fill IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Container) stationed near the fruit trees, and other key areas requiring consistent amounts of water. These IBCs can hold up to 350 gallons of water, so the couple dozen of them we been able to acquire has greatly increased out water holding capacity. This has been especially important in the more isolated areas where we're planting long term trees such as the walnuts and chestnuts.

      We were able to acquire some IBCs that were no longer commercially usable because the tops had been damaged. Before putting them into service, we cut off the damaged tops. That makes them lighter and easier to move around, and fill, but it also creates a large surface area of open water... a mama mosquito's idea of heaven. The other day I looked into the IBC located less than 20 feet away from where I'm living and, sure enough, there were hundreds of wriggling insects hanging out at the surface of the water. They'd dive down to 6-12 inches below the surface whenever I passed my hand over the water, something that's probably a key survival reflex although I've not seen any birds sitting on the edge of the IBC snacking away.

     It only took a quick Google image search to verify that my neighbors were indeed mosquito larvae, the neighbors no one wants to live near.


     My immediate reaction was to use a small fishnet to skim off as many larvae as possible. I fed a good amount to the chickens, who seemed pleased with the live protein supplement, but walking from IBC to IBC everyday with a fishnet doesn't seem to be the most sustainable practice :-) Introducing a predator other than myself seemed like a better idea, which is why Windward now has a "Fish for Hire." Though there is a species of fish, Gambusia affinis, that so excels at eating mosquitoes that it's been coined "Mosquito Fish," our current helper is a 5 inch goldfish named Hungry who usually lives in the barrelponics tank in Vermadise.

Fish at Work--please don't drain

     After three days of Hungry and occasional sweeps with the net, that IBC was virtually mosquito-free. I purchased several more goldfish when in town this week and when they seem strong enough to be outdoor fish, they will also become fish for hire, but right now I'll be moving Hungry to whichever IBC appears to have the most food for him to take care of. In addition to the fish's role as pest control, the water is enriched with fish waste which in turn can be beneficial to the plants we're watering from the IBCs. This is perhaps one of the most sustainable methods of pest control I've come across.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68