Keeping Mosquitoes at Bay

A female mosquito typically lays several broods of eggs, and she needs only a thimbleful of water. Here are some non-chemical approaches to managing the mosquitoes in your yard.

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Mosquito Larvae Mosquito larva

The yearly battle against mosquitoes in the yard begins with getting rid of likely breeding areas. First, of course, you'll want to be vigilant about eliminating —or treating —any standing water, no matter how little there is. That means plastic toys, saucers under containers, old tarps that might be lying around. And that also means keeping weedy areas under control and the lawn mowed, since mosquitoes can also lay eggs in foliage that traps water. Other tips:

  • If water isn't draining well in part of the yard, try to channel the water away with pipe, French drains or wet-weather stream bed.
  • Change water frequently in bird baths.
  • Add Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a bacteria that's harmless to wildlife, pets and people, to any permanent water features. 
  • The downside, of course, is that mosquitoes can breed in the smallest amounts of water, so after you've done all you can to eliminate the obvious breeding grounds, you still could be inundated with these pesky critters, which are a worrisome health risk, especially if the West Nile virus has been identified in your area. Here are some other things you can do:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you're outside in peak mosquito times — usually in the mid to late afternoon. (You have probably already discovered that mosquitoes don't read that "dusk to dawn" behavior they're credited with.) Even if you're typically not a glove wearer, you may find that wearing them is an advantage at mosquito-biting time. The same goes for wearing socks.
  • You'll probably find netting an extremely useful and relatively hassle-free way to defend yourself. Outdoor-gear stores carry head drapes that fit over your hat and cover your neck. You can also find tunics that cover the upper half of the body.
  • Welcome bats to your yard by hanging a bat house or two. Just one of these mammals can eat 500 mosquitoes per hour.
  • Apply bug repellents that seem to work for you. Besides the products that contain diethyltolumide, or DEET, there are a number of alternative repellents, some of which rely on citrus oil. One gardener reported to us that she had success with a scentless skin oil. Another said he favors pennyroyal. If you've had success with a bug repellent, email us about it. Put "mosquitoes" in the subject line.
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