Swallows perform an impressive job of controlling
mosquito and fly numbers around a rural home. They eat the equivalent
of their body weight of flying insects on a daily basis.
If your home is by an open field with a body of water like a creek
or a pond, you can set up nesting boxes for swallows and have them
return every spring.
||We have tried all sorts of gizmos and remedies
to control flies and mosquitoes with little effect. Those ultra-violet
fly zappers worked okay but the constant electronic humming
and the electrocution noise became annoying quickly.
The warnings of the flies catching on fire if not
cleaned out frequently, which was not pleasant, made us wonder if
we should turn it off at night or when we go someplace, added unwanted
complexities to the problem. The citronella torches and incense
were ineffective and we did not like spraying or applying insect
repellent just to be able to sit outside comfortably. However once
the swallows began to come in the spring we saw a dramatic reduction
in both flies and mosquitoes. They are the perfect natural control
and a joy to be around.
One of the things I like to do during winter is
to make nesting boxes for swallows out of board ends and scrap lumber.
I usually pick a sunny day in late winter to set them up for the
return of the migrating birds in April. I’ve got about a dozen
set up on top of power poles and up high under outbuilding eaves.
No matter how many more I put up, there are no vacancies by the
There's one peeking out of the entrance.
According to the Washington State Department of
Fish and Wildlife, half of the bird species that breed in Washington
migrate south to tropical Central and South America. That is a distance
of between 3000 to 4000 miles. The swallows gather in large flocks
in late summer, early fall to begin their flight south. They return
close to the same dates every early spring to the same nesting boxes.
It is just incredible that these small birds fly a round trip distance
of nearly 8000 miles every year back to our yard, I feel honored
and humbled by their appearance.
Mr. and Mrs. Tree Swallow
Here is a simple nesting box for swallows. It is
important to keep the entrance hole 11/2" in diameter. A larger
hole will invite bigger birds like starlings, smaller and they will
have problems getting in and out especially when the female is pregnant.
The box should be rain proof and vent holes on the
bottom are not advised as ants can come in and disturb the nest.
It is important to place the nesting box at least ten feet from
the ground. We have ours on poles.
Metal must not be used in the construction of the
box, i.e. metal roof, they get too hot and too cold. In areas where
summer temperatures can get very hot for extended periods like central
Washington where 90 degrees and above is common, the box must be
sheltered from the midday sun, under an eave or on a north side
of a structure.
|Building the nest inside the box is an important
function for the mating pair and there must not be any materials
inside the box to "help" them. Also perching setups
are not needed or advised.
The nesting box should be cleaned out every one
or two years to make it easier for returning swallows to build a
fresh nest. Also to deter possible infestations of mites and this
would be important in areas where winter temperatures do not get
Society Tree Swallows
Projects for Backyard Wildlife