Ready to get rid of those mosquitoes around the house? Great. But there’s one thing you should know about home mosquito control right up front.
There’s no silver bullet to mosquito prevention, no one product or tactic guaranteed to clear them out of your yard. And you will never be able to get them all; it’s just not possible. The best you do is thin out their numbers and lessen the odds of getting bitten when you go out of the house.
To accomplish this, you’ll have to use a combination of approaches. That includes ferreting out the possible mosquito breeding sites around your house, making the yard as inhospitable as you can, and attacking the adult swarms with everything from mosquito traps to mosquito spray.
It will take some time, and yes, cost you some money, as well, but when you’re done, you will be able to relax outside your home, confident that you’re as safe from the marauding bloodsuckers as you possibly can be.
Effective mosquito control starts with a thorough inspection of the potential battlefield, so let’s head outside for a look around.
Is your yard a breeding ground for mosquitoes?
On your way out, check all the doors and windows in the house. Every window that opens should have a screen that fits tightly into place – no gaps around the edges – and is in good repair, without cuts or holes.
Same for entrances. You need a good screen door for each. When closed, the screen door should be snug against the door frame, and the screen should not have any damage that would allow mosquitoes to get inside.
Of course, they don’t do any good if you raise the window screens along with the windows, or leave the screen door propped wide when the house door is open. Mosquitoes can and will come into the house any chance they get, so make sure to always keep the screens in place.
Outside, you need to look for standing water, in both the obvious places and the not-so-obvious. The folks at the Alameda County (Cal.) Mosquito Control District put it best on their website:
“The main rule when it comes to breeding grounds for mosquitoes is that they need stagnant water in order to lay their eggs. What most people don’t realize is the surprising number of areas around their own house where mosquitoes can find the stagnant water they need. The main rule: If it can hold water for more than a few days, it can breed mosquitoes.”
Female mosquitoes can lay their eggs in as little as an inch of water. So look for these likely places where mosquitoes can breed:
Tree holes – Some mosquitoes favor laying their eggs in hollowed-out places in trees where rainwater collects. Dealing with these can be tricky because insecticide might harm the tree, as could removing part of it. You may want to consult a landscaping expert or tree service for help.
Yard equipment – An upright wheelbarrow, an empty flowerpot, or even an abandoned shovel can hold water long enough to develop mosquito larvae. Store equipment inside, or turn it over so that rain will run off. Drill holes in the bottoms of containers that must remain outside, so they can drain.
Tarps – Any kind of plastic or nylon cover, whether it is draped over a stack of firewood or a boat, will eventually begin to sag and develop pockets where water can collect. Tighten them where you can and check them frequently.
Toys – Rain will fill toy trucks, teacup sets, or Frisbees left lying in the grass. The same for old-fashioned tire swings, which collect stagnating rainwater, or any old tire left laying in the yard. Make sure the kids pick up after themselves, and get rid of the tires.
Puddles – You may have low spots in the yard where water gathers and is slow to drain. If the water stands for more than a week at a time, you’ll get mosquitoes during the warm months. Fill in the spots, install drainage pipes, or change the landscaping to keep the water away.
Rain gutters – When the gutters on your house get clogged with debris, water can back up and become stagnant. Check the gutters regularly, especially if you have heavy leaf fall. Also, keep the yard raked. Overturned leaves hold water, and mosquitoes like to breed in them.
Birdbaths and wading pools – Take a hose to the birdbath at least once a week during warm weather to keep the water from stagnating. Turn the kids’ pool over and stand it up against a wall when they aren’t using it. If you have a swimming pool, make sure you clean and service it regularly.
OK, you’ve taken care of the standing water in the yard. Now, since mosquitoes like to rest in warm, moist vegetation during the day, make sure you keep the grass cut and the bushes trimmed, and clear all the weeds out of the flower beds regularly. Water the grass and plants enough to keep them healthy, but avoid doing it so much everything stays wet.
Natural mosquito control around the home
Next, you may want to make a few additions to the yard that can help control mosquitoes organically.
You’ve probably heard of the citrosa, called the “mosquito plant,” that’s supposed to miraculously repel mosquitoes just by its presence. Unfortunately, that’s not completely true. Mosquito control studies have shown that an undisturbed citrosa has very little effect on the pesky bloodsuckers.
However, the citrosa leaves do contain citronella oil, which is a mosquito repellent. And there are other plants with oils and fragrances believed to irritate mosquitoes, including citronella grass, lemon thyme, catnip and rosemary.
The trick is that you have to crush the leaves in order to release the mosquito repellents. Not terribly effective as an active measure, but it might be worth planting some around your favorite spots, so you can rub the leaves on your skin when you’re outside, to help keep the mosquitoes away.
This is also a good time to think about a small decorative pond to aid in mosquito control.
If you have one already, it’s a good bet mosquitoes breed in it, unless it gets a constant flow of fresh water. A natural way to treat the pond for mosquitoes is to stock it with gambusia, also known as the mosquito eating fish.
Gambusia feed on mosquito larvae, primarily wigglers at the surface. They grow to about two inches and require no care. About 35 to 100 are enough to keep a small ornamental pond relatively free of mosquitoes, according to Rutgers University entomologists.
Many local mosquito control districts will provide them for free as long as they are kept somewhere that does not connect to other water environments. Gambusia are predatory fish and have been known to feed on the young of other native species.
Meanwhile, if you don’t have a pond, it could be a good idea to get one installed. Designed correctly, a small decorative pond can attract dragonflies, sometimes known as “mosquito hawks” because they feed on both mosquito larvae and adult mosquitoes.
The British Dragonfly Society recommends the pond be at least 130 square feet, but obviously, you can go much smaller. Put it somewhere protected from wind, but where it can receive direct sunlight to keep the dragonflies warm.
The pond needs to be deep at one end, at least two feet, and shallow at the other, so dragonfly larvae, called “nymphs,” can dive when threatened by predators and eventually crawl out of the water once they’ve grown.
Stock the pond with native aquatic plants that rise above the surface, giving the larvae a place to rest and hide in the roots, and the young adults a place to rest out of the water. Also plant shrubs close by to encourage the adults to stick around.
Surround the pond with flat, light-colored rocks. Some dragonflies like to land on flat rocks to sun themselves.
One quick note: You may have heard that bats and purple martins also are handy to have around because they eat mosquitoes. But researchers say those are fallacies. Bats prefer other insects, with mosquitoes making up less than one percent of their diet. Purple martins are partial to dragonflies.
Mosquito spraying and other forms of attack
Now that you’ve turned your yard downright unfriendly toward mosquitoes, it’s time to take a little more aggressive action. Again, you’ll need to use a combination of tactics.
One of those involves insecticide.
You can kill mosquito larvae in standing water with a product like Mosquito Bits, which contains the Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis bacteria, the most effective larvacide, or you can apply a larvacidal oil to the water’s surface to keep the larvae from breathing.
Adults are susceptible to foggers and mosquito spray.
Foggers heat insecticide and release it into the yard in low volumes, killing mosquitoes on contact, but the fog, and its effectiveness, wear off within a few hours. A mosquito spray, such as permethrin or bifenthrin, lasts a little longer and can be used to coat areas where mosquitoes like to rest.
Spray the grass, trees, bushes, wooden fences and walls of the house, then let it dry. The poison, a synthetic version of the insecticide produced by the chrysanthemum plant, kills mosquitoes on contact by attacking their nervous systems.
You can find larvacides, foggers and sprays in most hardware and home improvement stores.
Believe it or not, you are still going to have mosquitoes, even after all of this. Different tricks work with different species, and there could be tens of thousands of mosquitoes from a dozen or more species flying around your neighborhood.
To add the next layer of protection, replace the regular lights bulbs in your outside lights with yellow bulbs, which attract significantly fewer insects. Then, put a mosquito trap in your yard, away from the deck, patio or anywhere you normally spend time.
Mosquito traps mimic the attractants that draw female mosquitoes to feed on human bodies. They release carbon dioxide and Octenol, found in exhaled breath and sweat, and they emit heat and light in ranges designed to stimulate the mosquitoes.
The traps can lure mosquitoes from more than 100 feet away, then sweep them through a fan into a container where they die. While you sit comfortably, the mosquitoes are tricked away from you to another corner of the yard and quietly disposed of by your trap.
Within about two months of running the trap, you can expect to see significant reductions in the local mosquito population, as female after female is drawn in and dies without laying more eggs.