What’s the only thing worse than catching a mosquito in the act of biting you?
Noticing a brand-new mosquito bite on your arm or leg after being outside for less than two minutes.
While many folks love summertime, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who genuinely likes the mosquitoes that inevitably show up once warm weather arrives. This time of year, these obnoxious bloodsuckers seem to be everywhere. At best, their bites leave itchy, sometimes painful welts on our skin, and at worst, they transmit serious diseases like West Nile virus, yellow fever, malaria, and Zika virus to humans. Our pets aren’t safe, either, as dogs and cats can contract heartworm from mosquito bites.
Now, at Chimney and Wildlife Specialists, we usually focus on larger pests. But we definitely have some tips for keeping pests of the buzzing, blood-sucking variety at bay, as well!
Watch Out for Standing Water
Female mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in still or stagnant water. Within days, the eggs will hatch, and the larvae will subsequently live off of bacteria and other tiny organisms in the water until they pupate. These steps are necessary for mosquitoes to reproduce successfully, so one of the best ways humans can fight back is to limit the amount of standing water on their property as much as possible.
- Don’t leave items like kiddie pools, buckets, empty flower pots, and watering cans outside for days on end. Always drain the water out of these items completely and put them away after each use.
- If you have a birdbath or bee waterer in your yard, make sure to refresh it at least weekly. Dog and cat water dishes should be refreshed daily.
- On trash day, put your bins away as soon as possible, and store them indoors if at all possible. Overturned trash can lids can easily collect water from rain, sprinklers, and morning dew, making them prime real estate for mosquitos.
Visit any grocery store, big-box store, or pharmacy, and you’ll probably see mosquito-fighting tools prominently displayed. It can be tempting to simply dump one of everything into your basket and head to the checkout stand but do keep in mind that some commercial remedies are more effective than others.
- Don’t waste your money on devices and products that claim to repel mosquitos using ultrasonic noise. The general consensus among experts is that these products do not work and just give users a false sense of security.
- Citronella candles, long considered essential for outdoor parties during the summer months, aren’t nearly as powerful as many homeowners think. Most commercially available candles only contain enough citronella oil to repel mosquitos in the very immediate vicinity (i.e., if you step more than a foot away from the candle and its smoke, it can’t help you), and some are simply citronella-scented and lack mosquito-fighting oil completely. If you still want to try candles, look for ones that explicitly say that they contain real citronella oil. You might even consider DIYing a batch of candles to save yourself some money—project tutorials are readily available online.
- Mosquitos have trouble flying in high wind, so electric fans (either the oscillating type or box variety) can create a hostile environment for them. The breeze will feel refreshing to any nearby humans, too!
- For individual protection, sprays containing the chemical diethyltoluamide, or DEET, are going to be your best bet. A few generous spritzes on your skin and clothing (make sure to get all the way down to your socks!) will make you unattractive to mosquitos for several hours. DEET-based sprays don’t kill bugs; they just make it extremely difficult for bugs to “find” and land on your skin. DEET is generally considered safe for folks of all ages, provided that you don’t spray it in your mouth or eyes and don’t apply it under your clothing. Washing it off of your skin before you go to bed is also advisable.
Harness the Power of Nature!
Okay, maybe that heading is a little dramatic. But there are ways that you can unofficially “enlist” plants and wild animals in your mosquito-fighting crusade.
- If you have the yard space for a garden, try planting basil, citronella, garlic, lemongrass, mint, or rosemary. Mosquitoes dislike the smell of these plants, reducing the likelihood that they’ll hunt for food on your property. Plus, you’ll be able to add a handful of fresh herbs to your diet. Catnip also works well as a mosquito repellent, but if you plant a big batch of the stuff, don’t be too surprised if your garden suddenly becomes a popular hangout for neighborhood cats!
- Put up birdhouses and bat boxes on your property. Bats and birds are both voracious insect-eaters, and they’ll very happily hunt down any mosquitos that they spot hanging around their “new home.” Providing these structures a reasonable distance from your house will also discourage these critters from nesting in your attic, walls, or chimney.
- Leave spiders and their webs alone whenever possible. Obviously this isn’t an option if the spider in question is venomous, someone in your home is allergic to spider bites, or a web’s location is obstructive to normal foot traffic. You might not be able to convince an arachnophobe to corral a spider outside instead of killing it, either. But spider webs are highly effective at catching small, flying insects, and mosquitos are no exception. Adopt a “live and let live” attitude toward spiders, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how few mosquitos you find flying around in your house.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably never be able to eradicate mosquitoes completely. These nasty, airborne pests have been around for millions of years, so we can only assume that they’re in it for the long haul. That said, humans don’t have to take mosquito season “lying down.” So dump out that water bucket, plug in an oscillating fan, and seek a symbiotic relationship with mosquito-eating wildlife! Your skin—and, quite possibly, your immune system—will thank you!