Learn the best methods to eliminate and prevent mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are an insect problem people want to eradicate as fast as possible. Beyond the pain and inconvenience of mosquito bites, we also have to be concerned with serious diseases mosquitoes are known to carry, such as West Nile virus and Zika.
Read on to learn the best ways to get rid of mosquito problems in and around your home and beat mosquito season to have a bite-free summer.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends using an EPA-registered personal insect repellent for protection against mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus, Dengue, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever and Zika viruses. Repellent is available in spray, cream, stick and clip-on form to ensure full coverage over your entire body.
Safety: When you're done spending time outside, be sure to wash repellents off as soon as possible. Don't apply repellents on the hands of small children or anything else they might put in their mouths. Always apply repellent in well-ventilated areas.
For protection against both mosquitoes and ticks, the CDC recommends using a personal repellent that contains 20% or more DEET. DEET, a substance that has been around for more than 50 years, remains among the most effective repellents.
Different brands of repellent feature different concentration levels of DEET, so be wary of how strong each one is. 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% DEET last up to two hours and those with 25% 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 with various effectiveness levels.
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.
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.
Mosquito repellant application tips:
• 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.
Knowing how and where mosquitoes like to breed is the key to controlling the population. 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.
1. Eliminate areas of standing water.
The best way reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard is to eliminate areas where they can lay eggs. Even the smallest amount of standing water can serve as a breeding ground.
• Clean and change the water in birdbaths regularly.
• Use larvicides to treat containers of non-drinking water.
• Get rid of cans, bottles and any other containers that are outside.
• Remove tree stumps where rainwater can collect.
• Use gutter cleaning tools for your roof to free clogs and prevent water buildup.
• Drain toddler-sized wading pools when you're not using them.
• Avoid overwatering your lawn.
2. Monitor ponds, lakes and landscape water features.
For areas where it's virtually impossible to eliminate all water, such as ponds or lakes, there are steps you can take 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 water moving.
• Add larvicides such as BTI (a bacterium that produces a toxin lethal to mosquito larvae) and IGR (insect growth regulators) to bodies of water you don't want to eliminate. 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 larvae to drown while ensuring the water remains safe.
3. Protect your home.
Keep mosquitoes from entering your home by repairing or replacing any window screens which are damaged or broken. Add a screen door to outside doors and screen in outdoor porches, pergolas and patios.
Prevention will reduce the number of mosquitoes in your area, but it will not get rid of them entirely. Fortunately, there are a number of chemical treatments that can be used for both larvae and adult mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes rest in dark, humid outdoor areas around your home. Treat areas under and around patio furniture, 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 sprays and foggers formulated for outdoors spread toxins that will eliminate mosquitoes.
• Use citronella candles or torches to keep bugs away from small areas outside, such as a porch or deck.
• Fans can blow wind too strong for mosquitoes to fly through.
• Electrocuters, or bug zappers, use heat and carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes and eliminate them.
For a more advanced solution around your home and yard, consider a high-tech mosquito trap that uses a combination of heat and scent to imitate a human target and attract mosquitoes. When a mosquito flies in for a closer look, a high-powered, built-in vacuum sweeps them into a chamber where they are trapped and eliminated.
Mosquitoes like to rest in dark, humid places within the home also, so check under sinks, in closets, under furniture or in the laundry room. If mosquitoes have already made their way into your home, get rid of them with indoor-tested products.
• EPA-registered indoor flying insect and mosquito repellents are available in foggers, aerosols or pump sprays.
• Fans and fly swatters are low-tech solutions that can deter and eliminate mosquitoes.
Natural Mosquito Repellents
There are a few natural remedies and methods recognized to help control mosquito populations and prevent mosquito bites.
Plants: There are several varieties of plants that mosquitoes avoid:
• Tulsi (holy basil)
• Lemon thyme
Plant a few varieties in high-traffic areas around your home, such as along walkways, in window boxes or in pots to be placed on porches and decks. The plant oils and fragrance will be released by human and pet contact and will act as a natural barrier against mosquitoes.
Oils: Some naturally-derived oils, such as peppermint, camphor and citronella can be mixed with water and used as room spray to help deter mosquitoes. Oils such as eucalyptus and lavender can be lightly applied directly to the skin to prevent mosquitoes from landing to bite.
Predators: Dragonflies are natural predators of mosquitoes at all life stages. Dragonfly nymphs feed on mosquito larvae, while adult dragonflies eat adult mosquitoes. A water feature or pond no more than two 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.
• Must be reapplied often to skin
• Can be worn by children as young as 3
• Creates a 6- to 8-foot radius of protection
• Ineffective in windy weather
• Protects large areas
• Get enough torches to create a ring around your outdoor area - place each one about 4 feet apart for the most complete coverage
• Treats large areas
• Battery-powered traps are more convenient to use; propane-powered traps are more effective but require more monitoring
• Treats natural and man-made water features
• Only effective for eggs and larvae