A reader came to us with a problem. While she's lucky enough to have a nice Fort Greene backyard for grilling and cookouts, mosquitoes still view her and her friends as bait, even with a thick coating of anti-mosquito spray, anti-bug incense, and 7 citronella tiki torches.

Is there a mosquito-eating reptile or amphibian that is indigenous to the region that I could purchase and release into my backyard without upsetting the balance of nature back there? (Could a herd of a dozen toads or lizards from the Midwest start a harmful infestation of non-native species in Brooklyn? Far-fetched but possible? Wasn't there an episode of the simpsons about that?) Would I be releasing the bug eaters to a certain death? Would it be at all effective against my super itchy, blood sucking enemies?

Gothamist was intrigued, because we hate mosquito bites with a passion. We called 311 to first ask if it was against the law to have a toad or lizard stationed in the backyard to eat mosquitos; 311 said it should be fine, as the city doesn't regulate private property. We replied, "Huh, that's interesting, because we know it's illegal to have, say, a tiger in the apartment." So the nice 311 lady and Gothamist looked over the city's health code to see what animals were illegal. Some lizards, like the Komodo dragon lizard are definitely prhohibited. But there's nothing about other kinds of lizards or toads. But would toads be too noisy? We checked one website that said certain fish (guppies!) and bats were good mosquito predators; guppies might be possibility, but bringing a pond into the yard might attract more bugs - and then do you need a permit to add a pond?

2006_06_nypllion.jpgSo, like many people today who read the NY Times article, we called the New York Public Library's information line (212-340-0849). After a brief time on hold, a librarian said while there were no indigenous solutions she could find quickly, since birds are predators, perhaps put a birdfeeder in the backyard. Or put up a bathouse (which the neighbors would love!). Then we asked her if things were busier than usual because of the Times article; she said "Since 9:01AM!!" and said that the callers were from all over the country, and the questions were a bit more sophisticated. But our question - "What are some mosquito predators native to NYC?" - was the oddest so far!

If anyone does have suggestions on reducing the mosquito population, let us know. The Department of Health's suggestions revolve mostly around removing standing water or avoiding the outside during the summer. Here are facts about mosquitoes from Science for Kids, and How Stuff Works explains how bug zappers work.