It is crucial to know how to get rid of mosquitoes. Some species can spread serious disease and while most are just a nuisance, itchy bites are never welcome.
In the garden, mosquito-repellent plants can help create an unpleasant environment for these leeches, and there are plenty of other measures you can take both outside and in your home to keep them away.
We have gathered here the best tactics to get rid of mosquitoes and asked the experts to share their expertise as well.
How to get rid of mosquitoes
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are more than 200 species of mosquitoes in the continental United States and American territories. Of these, about 12 spread germs that can cause diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, dengue and Zika, it says.
Knowing how to get rid of mosquitoes is vital because you don’t know what type you bite, as the CDC states, and because bites are unpleasant even if it’s just a pest rather than a disease spreader, and this is the low point.
1. Eliminate standing water
Standing water is where mosquitoes lay eggs, so to get rid of mosquitoes, remove it as much as possible.
“If you want to prevent bites, you need to stop mosquitoes before they reach adulthood by removing these water sources whenever possible,” said Terminix technical manager Timothy Best, a certified entomologist.
“Homeowners should examine their property for all areas where water can collect and stagnate. Think of dishes under potted plants, birdbaths, playground equipment for children, clogged gutters; the list of possible reservoirs is probably endless.
“While some species need more water than others, for example a defunct and neglected swimming pool, some species, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, need only the equivalent of a bottle cap of water to support their development.”
Keep in mind that this is not a one-time task and should be tackled after rainfall. ‘Although the lifespan can vary per species, under ideal conditions (summer) a mosquito can develop from egg to adult in about seven to ten days. So the longer the water lasts, the more likely homeowners and their properties are to support mosquito development,” says Timothy.
2. Consider treating water you can’t pump
You may not be able to get rid of some standing water, and in this case you could try a product containing Bacillus thuringiensis (BTI), such as Amazon’s Mosquito Dunks. They can be added to the water and kill the mosquito larvae, but are not toxic to children, pets, fish and other wildlife.
“You can also place one of the donuts on a stake fixed into the ground, where water is occasionally left behind,” suggests garden expert and author Melinda Myers. “It’s there when you need it.”
3. Keep the garden tidy
Regular yard work can help get rid of mosquitoes. “Trim vegetation,” advises Dr. Nancy Troyano, certified entomologist at Ehrlich Pest Control. ‘During the hottest part of the day, mosquitoes rest on low-lying vegetation to prevent dehydration.’
There are a few other tasks you need to keep up to date. “Trimming grass, removing vegetation, filling hollow trees or stumps, and removing leaf litter can reduce adult habitat,” says Timothy Best.
Also consider where to find items in the backyard. Move playground equipment and patio furniture away from dense vegetation. Mosquitoes like to hide in these areas, and being close to them will make it easier for mosquitoes to bite you,” says Dr Troyano.
4. Repel mosquitoes
Since you can’t get rid of every mosquito, your goal should also be to keep them off you so they can’t bite. Look for EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registered repellents, including any of the active ingredients DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
“Avoid products that contain both sunscreens and repellents, as you will need to apply the sunscreen more often than the product,” recommends Melinda Myers.
Also dress to keep mosquitoes away from you. “One thing that usually works is a long-sleeved shirt and long pants,” says Dr. David Claborn, an entomologist and director of the Masters of Public Health program at Missouri State University. “Clothes can also be treated with permethrin, which is irritating to the mosquitoes that land on them, making them leave without biting.”
Also consider the time of day. “Avoid being outside during mosquito peaks — dusk and dawn,” says Dr. Troyano.
5. Use fans to repel mosquitoes
Fans can help keep mosquitoes away from a porch or patio. “One or two inexpensive box or oscillating fans strategically placed can help dramatically reduce mosquitoes in localized areas,” says Dr. Nancy Troyano. “This will deter mosquitoes because they are such weak fliers.”
6. Lock doors and windows
It is important to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home. ‘Tight screens are the best way to keep mosquitoes out of the house,’ says Dr Claborn.
‘Keep in mind that they are also strongly attracted to light. In a rural house, a single light draws them in from a few kilometers away.’
What about mosquito traps?
Mosquito traps are controversial, according to Dr. Claborn. “For many of the commercial traps, the attractants they use, such as carbon dioxide or proprietary attractants, bring in more mosquitoes than the traps actually kill.
‘The mosquitoes can be drawn to an area by the attractant and then reorient themselves to a human as soon as that human becomes detectable to the mosquito. Some traps catch large numbers of mosquitoes, but that doesn’t mean they reduce the number of stings.’
Do bug zappers kill mosquitoes?
Insect zappers kill mosquitoes, but they also kill beneficial insects and besides, studies have shown that they make no difference.
“The only two controlled studies conducted to date by independent researchers from the University of Notre Dame showed that mosquitoes accounted for only 4.1 percent and 6.4 percent of the daily catch, respectively, during an entire season,” the statement said. AMCA (American Mosquito Control Association). †
“Even more importantly, the finding in both studies was that there was no significant difference in the number of mosquitoes found in yards with or without insect repellent.”
What smells do mosquitoes hate?
Mosquitoes are reputed to hate a variety of odors. ‘Citronella candles are a common, popular item for a reason – they have some repellent properties and they certainly smell good,’ says Dr Troyano. “Using it may deter some mosquitoes from a hyper-localized area, depending on the product you use and where you place it. However, using a citronella candle will not protect you from a mosquito bite. They should be used in conjunction with an applied repellent.”
Be aware of the limitations. “Normally the ‘natural’ repellents that work are less effective and have a shorter lifespan than the products that contain DEET,” says Dr Claborn. “There are those that have had some effect. For example, a recent study showed that essential oils of eucalyptus and cloves are slightly more than half as effective at preventing mosquitoes from getting on bare skin as DEET.’