Try these seven simple ways to reduce mosquitoes in your backyard, both for the short term and long term. They include pruning, treating ponds, eliminating puddles, spraying and others.
No, we're not talking about the crazy neighbors who live down the block. We're talking about mosquitoes, which can turn an enjoyable outing into a swatfest. Although there's no way to permanently eliminate mosquitoes, there are short-term solutions.
In this story, we'll show you seven simple steps that you can take before your party to keep away most of the mosquitoes (and other annoying insects). The steps are safe and fast, and most cost just a few bucks. They'll also help reduce the mosquito population throughout the summer.
Mosquitoes like shade to escape the midday heat.
Hedges, bushes and tall grass provide shade that shelters mosquitoes. They need a place to get out of the heat and sun during the day, so the fewer shaded areas they find, the less they'll congregate in your yard.
Keep the hedges and bushes trimmed, and mow the yard at least once a week. Mow or till weedy spots to minimize shade and to keep these marginal areas from becoming overgrown jungles. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Otherwise, you'll just drive the mosquitoes next door—and they'll come back often to visit.
Mosquitoes can lay eggs in tiny amounts of water.
It's no surprise that mosquitoes are attracted to water, but it is surprising how little water it takes for mosquitoes to breed and multiply. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in just a thimbleful of water, which means that anything that holds even a tiny bit of water can be home to mosquito larvae.
Find and empty these water sources. Dispose of or drain water from old tires, buckets, unused kids' pools, bases of flowerpots, furniture, toys, boats and trailers left outside. Keep the gutters clean so water can't accumulate. Fill tree and stump holes with mortar. Slope ditches so they drain, and fill swampy areas with soil.
Treat pools of water you can't drain to kill mosquito larvae.
Sometimes it's nearly impossible to get rid of standing water. And sometimes, like when you have a small pond, you just don't want to.
Pour a tiny amount of Agnique MMF mosquito larvicide in the water so that a thin layer covers the surface. It'll suffocate the larvae (and any other insects in the water) without harming fish. (Buy it online at myadapco.com or ehrlichdistribution.com.) Or put Mosquito Dunk into the water. These doughnut-shaped briquettes produce a toxic bacterial spore that kills mosquito larvae, but won't harm fish or animals. One briquette lasts for 30 days. Large bodies of water may require more briquettes. The Mosquito Dunk doesn't repel mosquitoes; it prevents breeding. Find it at home centers in six-pack quantities. It's also available at lowes.com and other sites.
Contrary to popular opinion, these often-tried remedies won't ward off mosquitoes:
Goldfish or minnows will eat mosquito larvae in pools.
When water is part of your landscaping or used for recreation, you don't want to drain it. But that doesn't mean you have to surrender it to mosquitoes. Buy a few goldfish or minnows from a pet store or bait store and add them to your water garden. They may only live for one season, but they'll eat mosquito larvae.
Chlorinate water that remains standing for a long period, like water in swimming pools, saunas and hot tubs. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the safe use of chlorine. Keep pools covered when not in use. For small fountains, birdbaths and wading pools that you don't want to chlorinate, simply change the water once a week to dispose of mosquito larvae. Sweep surfaces with a brush to knock off eggs before refilling the container.
Call your local mosquito control officials for advice and help with big infestations.
Large wooded areas, ponds and lakes are havens for mosquitoes. It's almost impossible to treat these areas yourself, so call in the big guns—your local Mosquito Control District. Local policies vary and services are localized, but often, when the number of mosquitoes reaches a certain level, Mosquito Control will spray for them. This is also a good idea if mosquitoes are swarming your yard in unusually high numbers.
Make the call about two weeks before your party. It'll take time for Mosquito Control to come out, conduct the test, and if needed, spray. Keep in mind that specific criteria must be met before Mosquito Control will spray private property. Your mosquito problem may not meet the threshold, but it's worth a call.
Professional exterminators will treat your yard with insecticide.
If Mosquito Control won't spray your property, hire an exterminator to spray the foliage. This ensures a swat-free party by wiping out mosquitoes and other insects for at least a few days. Have this done one to three days before your party. Expect to pay $135 for a yard of less than half an acre and $225 for a yard up to an acre. For a (nearly) mosquito-free summer, have the foliage sprayed monthly (about $350 for the summer for a small yard).
Although you can buy sprays yourself, we recommend leaving the application of insecticides to the pros. They can buy more effective treatments that are restricted to licensed exterminators. They also know which to use and how much to apply to kill the mosquitoes without posing a hazard to other critters. When used according to the label, the insecticides pose minimal risk to humans and pets.
Rapid air movement confuses the mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to body odors and the carbon dioxide we exhale when breathing. They allow mosquitoes to home in on us—and that's when the biting starts. Dissipating these telltale human signs makes us harder to find. So, right before the guests arrive for your party, set fans on the ground and turn them on to break up the scent patterns. This simple solution is surprisingly effective for spur-of-the-moment events, when you can't use the measures listed above.
Because of their light weight, mosquitoes are weak flyers. The breeze from the fans makes it difficult for them to fly, keeping them out of your party zone.
Despite your best efforts, a few mosquitoes will probably crash your party. Follow these steps to keep them from harassing you: