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Name: Carol  M.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Saturday, June 01, 2002


Question:
I live on an coastal island with a small spring feed lake in Savannah, Ga. This is a healthy lake with good fishing, birds,etc. The problem are the flying insects. (midges, sandgnats, mosquitos's and horse flies.) I have two questions. I bought a martin house. If I cut the entrances larger it becomes a martin or starling house. Which one eats the most insects? The next is what other suggestions do you have to help eliminate this problem. This year has been awful. It has been very dry and I haven't noticed as many skinks, lizards, or frogs. Thanks for your help.


Replies:
Carol,

You make this very easy! DO NOT ALTER THE MARTIN HOUSE! Starlings can not even come close the the Martin's ability to capture flying insects because Starlings can not catch anything in flight. Starlings are from Europe and are omnivores so they eat just about anything, but not while they are flying. Their beaks are not designed for catching on the fly! Martins, on the other hand, are native and eat only insects. I suggest that you avoid attracting Starlings at all for they are agressive "beasties" and drive out native species like the Martins.

Flying insects can be controlled using bats, swallows, goatsuckers, Chimney Swifts and Martins. Build bat houses, ask naturalists in your area how to attract swallows. Chimney Swifts like tall structures to nest inside and goatsuckers usually find flat roofs to their liking. The descriptions I have been giving are typical in the midwest anyway. Again, seek some advise or attend or join a local Audubon Chapter for some of this information may not be relivent to your ecosystem.

FYI: Martins are protected by State and Federal laws; Starlings are not.

Steve Sample


Martins eat flying insects, starling generally do not. Starlings will eat insects when they can catch them, and probably eat some larvae and even eggs, but will not do much to reduce flying insect populations. In general naturalists advise discouraging starlings as much as possible. As for the overall bug problem, I have no suggestions. The insects you mention are very much a part of a healthy system and feed many other creatures. Any sort of insecticide will disrupt the entire system. Perhaps you can contact a nature center or agricultural extension service in your area for advice. Good luck.

J. Elliott


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