Not everything in nature is cute and fluffy, especially when it comes to pest control. But without these five backyard-bug-eaters, your yard would be overrun with creepy crawlies!
From the misunderstood opossum to the misrepresented bat, these critters may not be your favorite, but they help keep mosquitoes, ticks, flies, moths, and cockroaches in check!
The Virginia opossum is native to the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico and is one of nature’s best tick-control experts. In one week, the average Virginia opossum eats over five thousand ticks – with a lifespan of around four years, that is over a million ticks!
Despite being excellent at controlling disease-carrying ticks, this North American marsupial often sends homeowners running. This fear commonly stems from the possum’s defensive posturing, teeth-baring, and hissing, but these behaviors are nothing more than an attempt at self-preservation.
The Virginia opossum may look intimidating when cornered, but this pouched mammal is much more afraid of you than you are of it.
Legends of vampires and blood-sucking bats do little to increase the popularity of these cave-dwelling mammals. But the garden variety bat is laser-focused on mosquitoes and other garden pests and has no interest in latching on to your neck!
Capable of consuming upwards of one and a half million mosquitoes in a single month, bats are some of nature’s most effective exterminators. In addition to clearing your yard of mosquitos, the average backyard bat also controls beetle, cricket, moth, and chinch bug populations.
Like the opossum, a healthy bat is a defensive creature and prefers to flee rather than engage in a human confrontation. Bats that confront humans with aggressive behavior may have the rabies virus, but this happens less than half a percent of the time as bats are more resistant to contracting the disease.
Although non-native to North America, the hedgehog is notorious for pest control throughout Europe. Known for feasting on insects that target fruit and vegetable crops: the hedgehog is a homesteader’s best friend. This skilled insect harvester even has a technique for wiping slime off slugs before eating them!
Hedgehogs often gorge themselves on worms, slugs, caterpillars, and beetles. Measuring close to ten inches long, a fully grown hedgehog eats three ounces of food nightly – the equivalent of approximately two hundred worms, three hundred monarch butterfly caterpillars, two hundred and eighty-four slugs, or over one thousand Japanese beetles!
Although many people feed their backyard hedgehogs things like pet food, it is best to let them forage for insects naturally. Not only are insects much more nutritious than commercial pet food, but allowing hedgehogs to search for their own food makes them less dependent on human interaction.
If you have a pond or a garden that lacks proper drainage, you have undoubtedly heard the croaks of backyard frogs. Despite their somewhat slimy appearance, frogs are a critical component of any aquatic community and help to control water-dwelling insects.
By feeding on mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and other aquatic insects, garden frogs help to clean up water that can become stagnant and full of pest larvae. A cleaner pond area is not just beneficial to you; it is also healthy for family pets because it reduces their chance of coming into contact with giardia, leptospirosis, pythiosis, blue-green algae, schistosomiasis, cryptosporidium, and pseudomonas.
Frogs can eat anywhere from two to one hundred insects daily, depending on their size, maturity, and species. Some of the most common species of garden frog in the United States include the American bullfrog (the largest species of North American frog) and green frogs.
Raccoons will scavenge just about anything to survive, but aside from human trash, they also have a penchant for snails, grubs, beetles, crickets, cockroaches, and earthworms. To get their paws on these insects, raccoons snatch them off nearby logs, dig them out of the ground, and even catch them mid-flight!
Raccoons play a necessary role in pest control in North America, not just because they eat many insects but also because they help to control the frog population. Gone unchecked, too many frogs could eliminate beneficial insect species that help to maintain balance in our ecosystem.
Weighing up to twenty pounds, a raccoon requires around a pound of food a day, and while insects are a tasty treat, dumpster diving is often more rewarding. Their trash raiding can be a nightmare, but placing large stones on trash can lids and refusing to feed raccoons limits these masked bandits to backyard pest control!