Deadly mosquito larva

How to Prevent mosquitoes in Hydroponic Systems

Any garden is vulnerable to mosquito breeding, and a hydroponic garden is no different. Yet mosquitoes in hydroponic systems are more manageable than in soil-based gardens.

Mosquitoes are an integral part of the natural ecosystem. Their larvae are food for many others. Yet, they can be annoying for humans. Besides, they can spread deadly diseases like Dengue, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. According to Pfizer, there are about 700,000 deaths every year worldwide, which we can attribute to mosquitoes.

Dr. Kratky, who pioneered the Kratky hydroponic system, mentioned the risk of mosquito breeding in his presentation. Thus, it’s real.

We’ve also experienced mosquito larvae developing inside our containers. Over time, we’ve tried several techniques to eradicate mosquitoes. Most didn’t work, but some did. In this post, we discuss all of them.

Are hydroponic systems more vulnerable to mosquito breeds?

Mosquito on hydroponic nutrient solution

The short answer is no. We trust hydroponic farms leave fewer chances for mosquitos than traditional methods.

In traditional farms, we water the plants using sprinklers or similar techniques. Yet water may enter unintended places, creating a breeding ground for mosquitos. Managing all such places, including the tiny space between some plants’ stems and leaves, can be problematic.

But in hydroponics, water is the only way we control how plants are fed. It flows through designated paths, making it more controllable than traditional farms.

The problem comes with the reservoir. Especially in the Kratky hydroponic technique, the reservoir is standing water.

Which hydroponic systems are vulnerable to mosquito growth?

As we said, standing water, if any, is the problem in hydroponic systems. Systems such as Kratky are more vulnerable as they use standing water. Besides Kratky, the rain gutter growth system and Wick hydroponics depend on static nutrient reservoirs. Thus, they, too, are vulnerable.

But this doesn’t mean the other systems are immune to spreading mosquitoes. Any reservoir can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes if insufficient surface movements exist.

How can we avoid mosquitoes laying their eggs in nutrient reservoirs?

larva of mosquitoes in hydroponic nutrient solution.

Although we say hydroponic systems are better at controlling mosquito spreads, we need to do some groundwork. This is not only for systems like Kratky but, in general, every system and its nutrient reservoir must have some form of prevention. Here’s a list of our favorite techniques.

1. Grow in a protected environment.

The best way to avoid having mosquitoes and other bugs use your garden as their home is to build a protected environment. Greenhouses, nethouses, or polytunnels are ideal. Protected environments not only prevent mosquitoes, but they also help the plant grow healthy by avoiding other pests and diseases.

Check out our post on leafminer, a prominent threat to almost any plant.

Related: How to manage leafminers in your garden

Yet protected environments are not for most home gardens. Instead, you can cover the plants with mesh. This, too, can prevent other issues like leafminers. Most importantly, it prevents mosquitoes from reaching the water’s surface to lay their eggs.

2. Cover the reservoirs

Open nutrient reservoirs pose a risk for mosquito spreading. But covering them with a lid is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, this simple solution becomes complex in some hydroponic systems. For instance, if you grow in NFTs, the downpipe must return to the reservoir. You can seal the openings with aquarium silicone sealant, but friction may break it as time goes on. Thus, you may end up reapplying regularly.

Yet, the following technique may help in such systems.

Related: How to setup Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

3. Introduce sufficient movement in the water

According to our understanding, mosquitoes don’t lay their eggs in running water or bodies of water with enough movement.

Thus, you can introduce movement in your reservoir to discourage mosquito spread. For instance, place NFT or any other system with a return pipe at a slight elevation if you’re using it. Water dropping from a height will cause movement in the reservoir’s surface. Yet, you must ensure the splashing water stays in the reservoir. You’ll lose precious nutrient solutions and create more mini mosquito families if it does.

Although systems like NFT have an inbuilt way to create waves in the water’s surface, some don’t. That’s where the next tip comes in.

4. Aerate the reservoir

Systems like Kratky and rain gutter grow systems rely on static reservoirs. When there’s no return pipe to hold it high, you can aerate the system.

Deepwater culture (DWC) extensively uses this approach. In deepwater culture, we wet the roots of this plant with water droplets that splash when air bubbles burst on the water surface. An air stone is placed under the container, constantly producing air bubbles. This method not only creates waves on the surface but also increases the oxygen content of the water, which, in turn, prevents root rot.

Related: The difference between Kratky and DWC

While DWC systems need this, we can create water movement and oxygenate the water in other systems. So, install an air pump in your static reservoir to avoid mosquitoes and prevent root rot as a bonus.

5. Interplant mosquito-repelling herbs

Certain herbs are believed to have some mosquito-repelling effect. These include citronella, lavender, and marigolds. Interplant these along with your other crops. The smell from these plants will deter mosquitoes and keep your garden healthy.

These plants also deter some of the other bugs. Thus, interplanting can provide more than one benefit.

6. Introduce Natural Predators

Consider introducing natural mosquito predators into your hydroponic system. Fish like guppies, goldfish, or betta fish can eat mosquito larvae. However, ensure that the type of fish you choose is compatible with your specific hydroponic system and won’t harm your plants.

7. Use a biological killer like Mosquito dunks

Mosquito dunks are an eco-friendly way to control mosquitoes in water. They use a natural bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) that kills mosquito larvae before they grow into adults. This is ideal for hydroponic systems, ponds, and other water features.

Mosquito bits, which also contain Bti, work similarly and are great for smaller water sources. Both products target only mosquito larvae and don’t harm other aquatic life or beneficial insects like bees.

Importantly, mosquito dunks and bits are safe for people, pets, and wildlife. They offer an effective mosquito control solution without the risks of chemical pesticides.

8. Monitor and Take Action

Keep a close eye on your hydroponic system and the surrounding area. Regular monitoring will help you catch any signs of mosquito breeding early and take immediate Action. Set up traps or use mosquito monitoring tools to keep track of mosquito activity.

Conclusion

Mosquitoes can be deadly. Gardens are comfortable breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and hydroponic gardens aren’t immune.

Yet, hydroponics gives us more control over water than traditional farming. In this post, we’ve discussed eight ways to prevent mosquitoes from spreading through your hydroponic systems.

We’ve discussed systems like Kratky, which are more vulnerable than DWC and NFT. Yet, a polytunnel or a greenhouse is the ideal solution for complete protection.

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