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Muscovies eliminate pest problems. (Country conversation & feedback).

COUNTRYSIDE: I have information that would be helpful on West Nile Virus solutions. Everyone is trying to use chemicals to solve this problems when mother nature can do a big part of it.

I read the article on chickens and pest control (February/March 2003), and thought I would drop you a note about my ducks.

I have three horses boarded on six acres here in Kentucky. For years I had a terrible problem with face flies, deer flies and ticks. We even had the two-inch-long "horse flies" in huge numbers; one year, I swatted 15 during an hour-long riding lesson. The bites are terribly painful, and the horses go crazy trying to get away from these bloodthirsty pests.

Then, someone gave me six Muscovy ducks. They did very well the first summer, but that winter coyotes got all but one nesting female. She hatched out 16 ducklings, and the fun began.

Those little ducklings were hungry all the time. They would hang out in the horse stalls, snapping up every fly they could catch. You've heard the saying, "Like a duck on a June bug," haven't you? it's an amazing sight to see: Little bitty ducklings hunting bugs like cats after mice. These little guys would position themselves in all the places the flies would lay their eggs, and feast on the incoming flies. They made a good-sized dent in the bug population; I haven't had a tick on me since that year, and I'm a tick magnet.

We kept a closer eye on this generation, so we didn't lose any over the winter. It included eight females, who hatched out from 12 to 20 ducklings each the following spring. The coyotes and the cats kept busy, but the females didn't give up. As a batch of ducklings hatched, they all crowded together, not really caring which hen they followed. My females would take up in pairs, two "moms" for about 20 ducklings, then the rest would start laying again. The last batch hatched in August.

We have a small pond, so the ducks never stray very far. However, the pasture borders on a subdivision. I've gone out to feed many an afternoon to see ducks all over the neighborhood. When I start to feed the horses, the ducks will start to fly in, or I will call them with a bell. Usually they are already waiting, as feeding time is 4 p.m. For some reason, my neighbors don't mind the ducks at all, and will come over to chat with me about what kind of mischief they've been up to.

Three things that I didn't know earlier about Muscovy ducks: They are strong fliers, they like to perch on houses, gates, trees, fences and barn roofs, and they are really quite tame.

Also, we have had the West Nile Virus break out in the horse population here; I was fortunate to have my ducks on mosquito patrol until I could get my horses vaccinated.--Kathleen Callahan-Jordan, Radcliff, KY

Mosquito munchers

COUNTRYSIDE: Why do some folks jokingly call the mosquito the state bird here in Minnesota? Because they're big, they're aggressive, and there are lots of them here in the summertime. Most--if not all--people hate them, but our Muscovy ducklings just love them--for feed, that is. Young ducklings, from the second day of their lives, go after those bloodsuckers all day long. By the evening, the little ducklings are so stuffed they can hardly move. They probably take care of thousands of mosquitoes and other small insects.

Our yard is practically mosquito- and tick-free without using any chemicals. Grasshoppers also are a favorite snack, if the mother ducks don't get them first. The only bugs the ducks don't care for are the box-elder bugs, except when they see a flying one, mistaking it for a mosquito. I'm keeping the ducklings out of the garden, though, as they like to nibble on young vegetable plants, too.--Andy Tomsevics, Isanti, MN

Most importantly the Muscovy's original name was "musco duck," because it is known as the "mosquito duck," for eating mosquitoes. One of the main reasons they were brought to America several hundred years ago is to help keep down the mosquito and bug population, and they do it well. There are billions of insects on an acre of land, and the Muscovy ducks are worth their weight in gold at eating mosquitoes and insects. They eat the mosquito larvae right in the water, and they nip in the air and eat the ones flying around. We plan on using solar lights that will come on a dark and off in the morning. The flies, moths and mosquitoes will add protein to their diet and further reduce feeding them. Muscovy owners tell me they will stay around the light all night eating the bugs that come to the light. They love roaches and eat them like they are candy; they eat flies, and maggots (good for horse farms and dairy cattle) and do a lot to keep down the fly populations.

P. Brown wrote this: "I am not familiar specifically with any research on Muscovy ducks for mosquito control, but dabbling ducks like mallards, readily consume mosquito larvae in wetlands. In fact, I suspect that most of the mosquitos that plague people likely come from situations that do not support ducks (small puddles, tires, wet meadows, etc.). I vaguely recall some early research that showed that where wild ducks were found, mosquito larvae were reduced in abundance because the ducks eat them readily. Hope that helps."--Patrick W. Brown, Director, Center for Wildlife Ecology, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, IL 61820

Compiled by: Duck Haven Farm, 6920 NW 35th Ave Rd., Ocala, FL 34475
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Author:Farm, Duck Haven
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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