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  1. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

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    I keep bees and I have two martin houses. I have not seen martins eating bees, mostly because martins feed high in the sky- usually eating dragonflies and larger flying insects. Besides, martins are only here for a couple of months: long enough to nest and raise their young, then they are gone. I love having both around.

  2. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

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    IslandMountainFarm- martins don't, as a rule, eat mosquitoes. Their larvae, however, eat mosquito larvae.

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Tonasket, WA USA
    Posts
    141

    Big Grin As with many things in nature

    Seems there is a bit of controversy regarding Purple Martins and their appetites. My wife has always believed that they were general insectivores and has gone out of her way to cultivate habitat for them and swallows. We have very few mosquitoes near our house even though it is next to a lovely draw that's full of them in the evening. Each late afternoon and evening we enjoy an aerial show of daring and skill as these guys go on the hunt. After reading these latest posts I did a literature search and it appears that the diet of martins is greatly affected by environment and prey species availability. In other words, your martins and swallows may not eat many mosquitoes if there are is a tree canopy and/or structures in the way and there are larger insects readily available. Ours seem to make a dent in our mosquito population.

    Bottom line: As with so many aspects of the natural world, we don't have a freakin' clue as to much of what is really going on. Yet we continue to meddle and act like we do. Thanks for the prod to get me to dive into the literature. Sometimes I get lazy.
    I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor it. Makes it hard to plan the day.

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

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    Actually, there's not much controversy. Repeated "autopsies" of dead martins, viewing the stomach contents, find that the majority of their prey is dragonflies and large insects. A mosquito wouldn't go very far for feeding the young'uns. Now, what I would buy is that other swallows, cliff swallows in particular, eat mosquitoes. We have both martins and cliff swallows at our place. The martins hunt high up in the air. I watch them in action aften when they are here. They take prey that is visible to the naked eye when they are 300-400 feet in the air. Cliff swallows, on the other hand, hunt low. We see them on summer monrings, right at sunrise, hunting low over our field.

  5. #25
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berkey, OH, USA
    Posts
    1,487

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    I know they say that the martins don't eat mosquitos. But Like many who support martin housing, I have very few if any mosquitos around the house. It;'s true that we also have barn swallows and tree swallows. And its also true that the martins do love to eat dragon flies and damsel flies.

    You would think that if the martins ate all the dragon flies there would be more mosquitos.

    Tonight they were taking the lightning bugs well after sunset.

  6. #26
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

    Default

    David, do you have a body of water or a stream nearby? Do you have dragonflies?

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berkey, OH, USA
    Posts
    1,487

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    yes I have a 2 acre pond (also ditches and a creek within a half mile).

    Yes I have dragon flies. Not a lot this year though. Seems like there are more later in the summer.

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
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    My guess is that the reason you don't have many mosquitoes is that the dragonflies are mating, laying their eggs in the water, and their larvae are eating the mosquito larvae. Also, I bet the reason you have more dragonflies later in the summer is that the martins are finishing their nesting and starting to go to large pre-migration roosts, thus leaving more dragonflies around your place. We didn't have that many dragonflies during martin nesting, and now that they are gone for the season, there are dragonflies all over the place.

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berkey, OH, USA
    Posts
    1,487

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    OK, I didn't know that the dragon fly larvae eat the mosquito larva! I know the martins love the dragon flies.

    I figured there are more later in the year because the martins are gone by then.

    Still, right now there are the little blue darning needles and the great big black monster dragon flies, as well as quite a hungry flock of martins trying to feed their babies.

    It has been a very dry year here and there are very few if any mosquitos. My wife and I took a long walk tonight around the farm and nary a bite did we encounter.

    My martin gourd rack got blown down in a big thunderstorm on June 2, breaking many eggs and destroying a couple of gourds. Before the rain was through we had started to put it back up. But all the martins restarted their nests.

    So we really have a late crop of martin babies this year!

  10. #30
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    The Scenic Flint Hills , KS
    Posts
    5,159
    My neighbor hasn't had a cover on his chimney for years. They have a pair or two of chimney swifts that come back every year. Last year I only saw the pair and their young. Yesterday I saw over twenty flying high over our houses, much too high to be eating bees. He says that they get so loud in the chimney that they can barely hear the TV!
    Bullseye Bill in The Scenic Flint Hills , KS
    www.myspace.com/dukewilliam

  11. #31
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Berkey, OH, USA
    Posts
    1,487

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    Chimney swifts are cool. I like to watch them fly. THey have such an irratic wing beat it makes them look like they are stuttering

    Yes they are always pretty high, up there with the Martins and tree swallows, sometimes higher.

  12. #32
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    parker county, tx
    Posts
    7,923

    Default

    David, based on the many accounts I have been reading about martin colonies, there are lots of late nesters this year- maybe due to unusual late cold snaps this year. Are you aware of the purple martin discussion forum? It's really a good source of information, and a nice bunch of folks to "converse" with about martins. If you want a link, let me know.

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