Controlling Mosquitoes Around Your Home
By Adam Smith
Summer is the season for outdoor fun, but pesky mosquitoes can be a major problem and disrupt our activities. In controlling mosquitoes, it’s important to remember three tactics: removing standing water, dressing appropriately, and using repellants to defend yourself. Mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs, and all too often, we provide that water source. Uncleaned gutters, discarded containers, tires, flower pots, bird baths, outdoor tarps holding water, unused swimming pools, and holes in trees are just some examples of places where mosquitoes can find standing water. Removing those sources of water is the most important thing you can do to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Another important tactic against mosquito activity is wearing protective clothing and using insect repellents. When appropriate, loose fitting, bright colored long-sleeve shirts and pants can reduce mosquito bites. Mosquitoes can bite through tight fitting clothing and are attracted to dark colored clothes. Insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus have been shown to provide personal protection. University of Florida research has demonstrated that products containing 20% or more DEET can provide 4-5 hours of protection. According to the American Mosquito Control Association and NC State Extension Specialist, Michael Waldvogel, children six months to two-years-old should only receive one application of a product containing 10% or less DEET daily, whereas children 2 to 12-years-old can receive three applications of a product containing 10% or less DEET daily. Individuals older than twelve can use products with up to 30% DEET, following label precautions. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than three.
While eliminating sources of standing water and protecting yourself with protective clothing and repellants can go a long way, it will not control all mosquitoes, and you may decide that additional control is necessary. For standing water that you cannot remove, there are “dunks” or granules that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bti) that can control mosquito larvae for approximately a month. These are generally available online or at hardware or garden stores. The use of an insecticide can provide supplemental control; however, it should not be your only management strategy. Whether you’re applying insecticides yourself or contracting a company that specializes in mosquito control, it’s important to avoid spraying when and where pollinators and other beneficial insects are active. Treating shrubs and trees around the perimeter of your yard will help reduce adult populations by targeting sites where adult mosquitoes rest. Remember that the insecticide label is the law and that it must be applied according to the label’s instructions; this ensures that the insecticide is applied as safely as possible and poses minimal risk to humans and animals.
Things that have not demonstrated adequate mosquito control in replicated research include: bug zappers, mosquito repellant bracelets, plants advertised to repel mosquitoes, and mosquito traps. Additionally, the ingestion of garlic and vitamin B12 has not shown an impact on reducing mosquito bites. Using citronella candles are no more effective than any other candle producing smoke because while the oil of citronella does repel mosquitoes, the amount given off by burning citronella candles generally isn’t enough to be effective. However, mosquitoes are weak flyers, and a fan can be very effective at removing mosquitoes from a small area such as a porch or deck.
Because mosquitoes don’t know property lines, plan with your neighbors to collectively prevent mosquitoes from breeding. A little bit of preemptive action can make a big difference in the mosquito populations around your home. Removing standing water and taking measures to protect yourself are all good ways to ensure that your outdoor summer fun continues undisturbed. Call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Catawba County Center Office if you have any questions: 828-465-8247. We are your consultation and educational programming resource for agriculture, food, and 4-H.