8 Ways to Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

Getting rid of the swarming summertime pests doesn’t have to involve harsh pesticides or gimmicky products, but it does require vigilance.

For people who want to keep their yards both livable for humans and ecologically healthy during the buggy summer months, here’s the bad news: There is no proven effective mosquito solution as simple as buying a zapper or lighting a citronella candle. Still, that doesn’t mean homeowners are helpless. Consider the following:

mosquito1. Play water detective: Get rid of any standing water around your home—that’s where mosquitoes lay eggs! Remember that mosquitoes can lay eggs in tiny pools—even the size of a bottle cap. Also, check the places you can’t see, such as rain gutters.

2. Employ fish: If you have an ornamental pond in your yard, find out if your local health department hands out mosquitofish, or Gambusia. As with all species not native to your region, exercise caution in releasing the fish.

3. Screen it: If you collect rainwater for irrigation, be sure to put a screen or filter—even an old pair of pantyhose will work—over the opening of the barrel.

4. Use mosquito dunks: If your yard has any unavoidable standing water, use mosquito “dunks”—usually donut-shaped disks of biopesticide that kill mosquito larvae but are harmless to humans, pets and wildlife.

5. Don’t be fooled: Remember that “natural” or “plant-based” doesn’t always mean safe—or effective. Do the appropriate research to ensure that your mosquito-controlling pesticides aren’t harmful to wildlife or pets.

6. Avoid what DOESN’T work: Studies have routinely shown disappointing results for just about every nonchemical means of repelling or killing adult mosquitoes: ultrasonic repellents, zappers and traps.

7. Use repellant: The most popular repellant is the chemical N,N-diethyl-mtoluamide, or DEET. Because of rare cases of human adverse reactions to the chemical, you might try lemon eucalyptus, a natural repellent that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says provides “reasonably long-lasting protection.” Regardless of which repellent you use, always read and follow the manufacturer’s dircetions. For more about the safe use of repellents, visit the CDC website.

8. Call in the pros. Almost every state or municipality has some sort of vector control agency—often run out of the health department. Along with a practiced eye, a vector control officer can look beyond a backyard to a larger area for the source of a mosquito infestation.

Text adapted from “Better Ways to Swat Mosquitoes” by Hannah Schardt, National WildlifeAugust/September 2009.