15 Tips to Combat Mosquitoes in Your Yard
Summer nights will get a lot better without the nuisance of mosquitoes buzzing around.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away from the House: Remove Water Sources
Having accessible water sources around your home will draw in mosquitoes. Why? Because mosquitoes actually lay their eggs in standing or slow moving water. By cutting these water sources, you are cutting the number of mosquitoes laying eggs around your home—and in return, having fewer mosquitoes around the house in general.
Now water can accumulate around your home easier than you think. Some of the biggest culprits of water sources include unused tires, cans, pools and pool covers. Any plastic containers or ceramic pots for planting that are empty and collect water should be removed. Make sure to clean out your gutters as much as possible, and always keep an eye out for water build up around the house. Bird baths are also an easy target for mosquitoes! Here’s how you can clean a bird bath to reduce mosquitoes.
Ways to Keep Mosquitoes Away: Avoid Scented Body Products
Although some scents work as a repellent for mosquitoes, other body lotions or perfumes can actually attract these pests. The best thing to do is stay away from fancy smelling perfumes, colognes, body washes or lotions if you plan on spending time outside during high mosquito activity hours. These hours are typically dusk to dawn between April and October. If you hate bugs, then these 15 bug-repellent products are for you.
What Keeps Mosquitoes Away from Biting You: Wear Light Clothing
Not light in weight, although in the summer that is a given. But light-colored clothing! Turns out mosquitoes are attracted to darker colored materials. As for the length, if you can cover up, you should do so. Wearing long sleeves and pants will significantly reduce the number of mosquito bites you accumulate by the end of the evening.
Now that you know a few hacks that truly work when getting rid of mosquitoes, you need to stop believing these 7 myths about mosquito control.
How to Repel Mosquitoes: Prune Hedges and Mow the Yard to Reduce Shade
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.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away: Treat Pools of Water
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. And we certainly love adding water features to the backyard.
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 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.
Mosquito Myth Busting
Contrary to popular opinion, these often-tried remedies won’t ward off mosquitoes:
- Citronella candles are no more effective than other candles at keeping mosquitoes away. Candle smoke in general may have a limited effect. Likewise, planting Citrosa geraniums won’t repel mosquitoes.
- Outdoor foggers and misting systems will temporarily reduce mosquito numbers, but they rise again as soon as the system turns off and the spray dissipates.
- Spraying garlic will make your yard smell like an Italian dinner but does little else.
- Bug zappers attract and kill thousands of insects, but most of them aren’t mosquitoes. They kill only a small number of mosquitoes in the area. (Ironically, they zap a lot of insects that prey on mosquitoes.)
- Placing propane gas traps in your yard will effectively capture many mosquitoes, but again, only a small fraction of those in your yard.
- Ultrasonic devices have no repellency value at all, according to studies.
- Building bat towers and purple martin houses to attract potential mosquito predators has been proven useless. Bats and purple martins rarely feed on mosquitoes.
How to Deter Mosquitoes: Stock Water Gardens with Fish and Chlorinate Swimming Pools
Goldfish or minnows will eat mosquito larvae in pools. Fun/scary fact: Did you know goldfish can grow to the size of a dinner plate if you release them into a lake?
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.
How to Deter Mosquitoes: Contact your local Mosquito Control District for Large Infestations
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. Do you know the 10 most pest-infested cities in the U.S.?
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes: Have your Foliage Professionally Sprayed
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.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away: Run Fans at Ground Level During the party
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. Entertain guests better with these outdoor entertaining space ideas.
How to Avoid Mosquito Bites
Despite your best efforts, a few mosquitoes will probably crash your party. Follow these steps to keep them from harassing you:
- Replace outside bulbs with yellow “bug” bulbs, which attract fewer mosquitoes than traditional lights. Find them at home centers ($2.50 for two 60-watt bulbs).
- Apply a light coat of an insect repellent containing DEET on your skin.
- Spray an insect repellent that contains permethrin on your clothes (not directly on your skin). Studies have shown that a combination of permethrin on your clothes and DEET on your skin effectively keeps away mosquitoes and other insects. Follow the manufacturer’s directions; overapplying can be dangerous.
- You can outfit the whole family in clothes that have been factory treated with an insect repellent. The repellent lasts for about 25 washings. One source is ExOfficio (exofficio.com). Men’s T-shirts start at about $30. Plus, you can always try these natural remedies if you encounter a bug bite.
What Keeps Mosquitoes Away from Biting You: Lemon Eucalyptus
This may seem like a myth, but oil from lemon eucalyptus is actually recommended by multiple government sources as an insect repellent (including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It doesn’t just have to be DEET! If you’re looking for a more natural remedy for how to keep mosquitoes away, this oil will do the trick.
Lemon eucalyptus is an effective natural oil to use as a mosquito repellent, with sharp-scented compounds proven to drive mosquitoes away, though it doesn’t last as long as other sprays. It can also make a great cleaner! Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup witch hazel (you can add a little vinegar, too) and then add 30 to 40 drops of the lemon eucalyptus oil. You can add a little more of the oil if this amount doesn’t seem to be effective.
Note: This is a potent home bug repellent and is not child or pet friendly.
Lavender oil is a very common ingredient in homemade bug repellents. If a recipe calls for citrus oils, neem oil, lemon eucalyptus, clove, or cedarwood oils, you can also add a little lavender oil. This will help improve the fragrance. But you can also use lavender oil by itself in a mixture similar to the citrus oil recipe for a home bug repellent. It won’t be quite as effective as some other options, but if you can’t stand the smell of other oils, it’s certainly worth a try as an alternative.
DIY Neem Spray
Much like lemon eucalyptus, neem oil is known to contain compounds that insects heartily dislike. That means you can use it as an effective repellent. It is derived from evergreen neem tree, native to India, and known for its potent fruits and seeds. Add a couple tablespoons of the oil into your witch hazel spray and try it out. If the spray isn’t mixing well even when you shake it, you can also add a little vegetable glycerin (aka glycerol, which is a clear, odorless liquid typically made from palm, soy or coconut oil) to help the ingredients combine. Neem may work best when combined with more fragrant oils.
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You can also use clove oil (or even add a few whole cloves to your spray bottle) for an enhanced repellent that can better deter insects. Clove oil is quite potent though, so don’t apply it directly to your hands or leave it on your skin overnight.
Peppermint and Castor Oil Repellent
Peppermint and castor oil are also both well-regarded as repellents. Plus, the peppermint smells great! You may want to go easy on the peppermint oil at first, since it can be surprisingly potent compared to other essential oils. A 1999 study of essential oils to repel mosquitoes found that only high concentrations of peppermint oil worked so it may not be the most favorable way to repel mosquitoes.