Mosquitoes may be the least welcome of common pests. They make irritating, high-pitched noises, cause painful bites that leave itchy welts and, in some cases, can transmit serious diseases. This guide will teach you how to get rid of mosquitoes in and around your home as well as offer tips for staying unbitten.
What are the Dangers of Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are small, flying insects with segmented bodies. They feed by biting people or host animals and drawing minute amounts of blood, leaving saliva that can cause an itchy rash on the skin.
- The most serious risk from a mosquito bite is that it can ingest pathogens and transfer them to another host, leading to the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and other viruses. Not all mosquitoes carry the same diseases.
- With rare exceptions such as Iceland, mosquitoes can be found in countries around the world, although the insects are more active in warm and tropical climates.
- Mosquito larvae develop in water, so adult mosquitoes are attracted to damp soil or standing water to lay their eggs. Any source of standing water may contain mosquito larvae, including old tires, flower pots, gutters that drain improperly, birdbaths and water features such as fish ponds.
- Some studies suggest that hungry mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide given off by people and other potential food sources.
- Mosquitoes tend to be most active at dawn and dusk.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes in the House
When determining how to get rid of mosquitoes in the house, check under sinks, in closets, under furniture or in the laundry room. Mosquitoes like to rest in dark, humid places. If you confirm that you have a mosquito population in your home, get rid of them with indoor-tested products.
- EPA-registered indoor flying insect and mosquito repellents are available in fogger, aerosol or pump spray form.
- Fans and fly swatters are low-tech solutions that can deter and eliminate mosquitoes.
- Keep mosquitoes from entering your home by repairing or replacing any damaged window screens. Add a screen door to outside doors and screen in outdoor porches, pergolas and patios.
- If mosquitoes persist in your home, call a pest control expert.
Tip: Consider using mosquito netting around your bed to help you sleep during a lasting infestation.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Outdoors
Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid outdoor areas, such as in tall grass, hollow trees or under leaves. If mosquitoes swarm around your house, treat areas under and around patio furniture, in carports or in the garage. Don't forget to check and treat outdoor storage sheds.
- When using chemical treatments, adhere to all manufacturer safety guidelines and recommendations.
- Larvicides eliminate mosquitoes before they become adults.
- EPA-registered mosquito sprays and foggers formulated for the outdoors spread toxins that will eliminate the pests.
- Use citronella torches or candles to keep bugs away from small areas outside, such as a porch or deck.
- Fans can blow winds strong enough to disperse mosquitoes outdoors.
- Electrocuters, or mosquito zappers, use heat and carbon dioxide to attract and kill mosquitoes.
- High-tech mosquito traps use a combination of heat and scent to imitate a human target and attract mosquitoes. When a mosquito flies in for a closer look, a built-in vacuum draws them into a chamber where they are trapped and eliminated.
Natural Mosquito Repellent and Control
Some natural repellents and remedies can help with controlling mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes avoid such varieties of plants as catnip, feverfew, citrosa, tulsi (also called holy basil), rosemary and lemon thyme. Plant a few varieties in high-traffic areas around your home, such as along walkways, in window boxes or in pots on porches and decks. The plant oils and fragrances will act as a natural barrier against mosquitoes.
- Some naturally derived oils, such as peppermint, camphor and citronella, can be mixed with water and used as a spray to help repel mosquitoes. Oils such as eucalyptus and lavender can be lightly applied directly to the skin to prevent mosquitoes from landing to bite.
- Natural predators such as dragonflies feed on mosquitoes at all life stages. Dragonfly nymphs eat mosquito larvae, while adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. A water feature or pond no more than 2 feet deep, that gets five to six hours of sun per day, and hosts some plants to help oxygenate the water, is an ideal condition to support dragonfly habitation.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away
One of the keys to controlling mosquitoes is knowing how and where they breed. Reducing the number of places where larvae can grow, and killing them as they do, will greatly diminish the number of adult mosquitoes around you.
- Eliminate areas of standing water: The best way to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard is to eliminate areas where they can lay eggs. Even the smallest amount of standing or stagnant water can serve as a breeding ground.
- Regularly clean and change the water in birdbaths.
- Use larvicides to treat containers of non-drinking water.
- Get rid of cans, bottles and any other open containers that are outside.
- Remove tree stumps where rainwater can collect.
- Clean your gutters to eliminate clogs and prevent water buildup.
- Drain toddler-sized wading pools when you're not using them.
- Avoid overwatering your lawn.
Monitor nearby ponds and landscape water features: For areas where it's impossible to eliminate all water, such as goldfish ponds, take steps to hinder mosquito breeding.
- Introduce fish that eat mosquito larvae, such as goldfish, bluegills and minnows.
- Cut back any plants that surround the body of water.
- Install pond pumps to keep the water moving.
- Add larvicides such as BTI (a bacterium that produces a toxin to kill mosquito larvae) and IGR (insect growth regulator) to bodies of water. Check packaging to ensure fish can survive in the same water before adding chemicals.
- Use a product with an alcohol derivative to create a film over the surface of the water, causing the air-breathing larvae to drown while ensuring the water remains safe.
Personal Mosquito Protection
The Centers for Disease Control recommends using an EPA-registered personal insect repellent for protection against mosquito-borne diseases such as the West Nile virus.
- Mosquito repellent is available in spray, cream, stick and clip-on form to ensure full coverage over your entire body.
- For protection against both mosquitoes and ticks, the CDC recommends using a personal repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET. Different brands of repellent feature different DEET concentration levels, so take note of their strength. Always follow the directions on the label for proper application.
- Just like sunscreen, mosquito repellent must be reapplied every few hours or it loses effectiveness. Reapplication times vary depending on a number of factors, but a general rule of thumb is that products with 7 percent DEET last up to two hours and those with 25 percent DEET can last up to 10 hours if not sweated or washed off.
- In addition to DEET, repellents that use lemon oil (also called citronella), eucalyptus and picaridin are available.
- The CDC also recommends treating clothing and gear with permethrin. Permethrin is only for clothing or fabrics; never apply permethrin directly to skin. Some clothes now feature built-in insect and mosquito repellent that remains effective through several washes.
Safety Tip: When you're done spending time outside, be sure to wash repellents off as soon as possible. Don't apply repellents to the hands of small children or anything else they might put in their mouths. Always apply repellent in well-ventilated areas.
Mosquito Repellent Application Tips
Consider the following tips for applying personal mosquito repellent.
- Spray mosquito repellents on clothing and exposed skin to ensure maximum coverage.
- Repellents retain efficacy for anywhere from one to 10 or more hours.
- Avoid spraying repellents into eyes, cuts or scrapes.
- Avoid using DEET concentrations stronger than 10 percent on children.
- Rain and perspiration may shorten the length of time repellents are effective.
- Note for Puerto Rico residents: Mosquitoes in Puerto Rico are highly resistant to any pyrethroid-based products. The CDC recommends only using products that contain deltamethrin in Puerto Rico.
Learning how to get rid of mosquitoes involves mastering multiple steps. Controlling mosquitoes can require keeping them off your skin, out of your house and away from your yard.
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