Mosquitoes are already a problem in many areas of the United States.
Whether you live there, or in an area where mosquitoes are just beginning to be a concern, there’s lots you can due to reduce mosquitoes from your outdoor (and indoor) living areas.
Note: this post is summarizing in video format and available on our YouTube Channel.
When it comes to controlling mosquitoes, one thing is more important than anything else.
Mosquitoes need water to lay eggs and the eggs need water to hatch.
Removing standing water where it’s unnecessary, and handling necessary or desired bodies of water on your property is the foundation for mosquito control.
Controlling as much water as you can is your first and primary line of defense.
If you live near a pond or other water supply you don’t own, you should:
- Follow local news to see any warnings about mosquitoes or disease
- Contact your local Board of Health to see what actions they are taking
- Take all measures necessary to encourage the mosquitoes to stay at the other water supply instead of moving to your place.
Common Sources of Standing Water
Standing water can result from drainage problems, which usually are puddles. However, if you have areas of water that tend to occur in the springtime near wooded or field areas, especially if there is other wildlife around, you may have a wetland.
Drainage Problems, Particularly Around Gutters and Drains
Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean. Leaves and other debris trap water that lures mosquitoes. If water puddles around your downspouts, think about extending the downspout, or adding dirt, sand and gravel near the downspout so that:
- The slope of the water runs down, if possible
- The ground can absorb the water instead of retaining it.
Homeowners often can do this easily on their own. Renters should follow their leases rules for maintenance and contact the landlord if necessary.
Containers, Tarps and Junk
If you can’t get rid of tires, buckets or anything else, dump water out of it regularly.
Drilling holes in the bottoms of planters, planter trays and trash cans can help keep water away. If you don’t have a place inside to store pails and wheelbarrows, store them upside down.
Some people have tarps to cover boats, woodpiles or other objects. Since water pools easily, you should think coverings you can do without.
You should also consider whether you really need or want rugs or decorative materials that hold water for long periods of time.
Be Careful if Water is Protected Wetland Resource
Wetland areas, even if they are on your own property, are regulated by the US EPA and strict fines can be assessed when they are filled in or otherwise destroyed.
How strictly these regulations are enforced, particularly on private property, depends on your state, county or municipality.
Usually, you will find out there are environmentally sensitive and protected when you buy the land. A proper survey should catch this.
If you have a protected body of water, you should ask your local Board of Health or environmental agency what you can and cannot do without risking hefty fines.
Luckily, vernal pools and other wetlands aren’t a common problem.
Decorative Bodies of Water
Whether it’s a pond, a small or large water garden, a fountain or a birdbath, decorative bodies of water can attract mosquitoes.
The good news is that properly maintained water features usually aren’t an issue.
Most ponds and pools have pumps of some sort or another. Swimming pools and spas usually have chlorine and other chemicals that keep mosquitoes at bay.
On the other hand, if your fountain isn’t working right you don’t regularly change the water in birdbaths, you have ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Solutions for Water Features That Do Attract Mosquitoes
Virtually all man-made ponds need pumps to keep the water moving; some also need pumps that add oxygen to the water.
Solar pond pumps, which come in a variety of strengths, are a great way to add motion to water, especially those with fountains. Mosquitoes don’t like to lay their eggs in water that is not still, and moving water makes it harder for eggs that are laid to hatch.
Planters are easy enough: just make sure the pot and its tray have plenty of drainage holes.
Water that puddles in planters is not only bad for the plants, it attracts mosquitoes. Another thing you can do for smaller planters is to pick them up and pour water out of the tray each time that you water.
If your schedule makes it difficult to change the water in birdbaths, think about getting a water wiggler.
There are lots of water wigglers available, some powered by solar and others powered by batteries. Wigglers agitate the surface of the water, which keeps mosquitoes from laying eggs.
Mosquito Traps and Water Treatments
According to the American Mosquito Control Association: “traps may actually draw more mosquitoes into your area than they can possibly catch, and doesn’t recommend them for homeowners.
As far as water treatments, all should be used with caution. Pesticides must be used with caution and only when absolutely necessary, since most will kill other bugs and insects and can harm other fish, animals and people. This is particularly true if they are not used properly.
Bacterial Water Treatments
Treatments that add certain bacteria to water bodies have proven effective, but they must be used exactly according to instructions.
The most favored one by mosquitoes experts today is BTI, which stands for “bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis.” These can be bought online as well as in hardware stores and garden centers.
It should be noted that while many scientists believe that BTI is harmless to virtually everything but mosquitoes and other insects that lay eggs in water, other people disagree.
BTI is supposed to be very toxic to insect larvae, killing them off, with no adverse short or long-term impacts. However, there are many studies currently underway to prove that BTI, in fact, easily disappears from the ecosystem.
The labels of many products using BTI note the importance of proper use.
The directions and other informational materials you may not see before you purchase the product note the state of studies on the safeness of BTI and also that OSHA (US Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines must be followed by workers using the product.
Will I be using this soon?
No and until more information is available we won’t be selling it. Remember: natural does not mean safe.
Citronella and Newer Blends
Some people swear by citronella and others find it useless.
There’s a reason for this. First of all, any candles only provide protection in windless conditions. They work best in semi-enclosed areas such as porches, gazebos, and balconies or decks with nearby walls.
Another reason that citronella doesn’t work is that it’s been around for quite a while. There are over 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States alone and some species have acquired a resistance to it and others it just doesn’t work on as effectively as others.
New products that haven’t been around for a while are proving to be very effective when used correctly.
These use citrus oils, mints and other natural non-toxic ingredients. One basis for these ingredients is what animals use in nature to keep bugs off of them. And primates often rub citrus over their bodies to keep bugs away.
These candles are attractive and work well when there is little wind.
Unlike bug zappers, which really don’t kill many mosquitoes but which many people find comforting, tests on the newer blends, particularly Bite-Lite indicate that the products are highly effective.
No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to get rid of all mosquitoes so it’s important to use physical barriers.
Clothing is One Example
Along with pest-repellents, you should dress appropriately. The standard recommendations are to:
- Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing to prevent mosquitoes from reaching your skin
- Use head nets, long sleeves and long pants if you are in an areas with a high mosquito population
Time your activities as best you can. For example, you should try to keep yourself and your family indoors when mosquitoes are the most active: sunrise, sunset and early evening. This is especially true when if mosquito-borne disease warnings are in effect.
According to the US EPA, you should:
- “Cover all gaps in walls, doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
- Make sure window and door screens are “bug tight.”
- Completely cover baby carriers and beds with netting.”
Always Follow Advice of Local Authorities
The advise in this post should help most people in most situations. However, we want to stress that part of protecting yourself and your family from mosquito-borne illness is staying aware of what is going on in your own property, the areas you go to, and any public alerts.
Are we promising a mosquito-free summer? No, but we do know that if you follow the tips in this post, you’re going to be dealing with a lot less mosquitoes.
And remember, it’s a lot easier to prevent a large mosquito population from taking over your outdoor living areas than it is to get rid of one that’s already there.
US Environmental Protection Agency (http://www2.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/)
American Mosquito Control Association (http://www.mosquito.org/)