How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
21–25 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world, and they’re found in nearly every country and corner of Earth. Because they’re so ubiquitous and quick to bite humans, they’ve garnered an understandably terrible reputation.
They also transmit hundreds of infectious diseases – some of them known for being deadly – more than any other insect or creature. Because of this, mosquitoes have been consistently studied as part of public health research.
Some of the diseases that mosquitoes can cause include encephalitis, elephantiasis, malaria, yellow fever, dengue, and others. These are all serious diseases that can cause extreme symptoms and fatalities if they aren’t treated with medical attention, so it’s always important to consult a doctor if you begin to feel sick after finding a mosquito bite.
While it’s easy to agree that mosquitoes are one of the worst types of pests, they do have their own important place within the ecosystem. Without them, they would disrupt the process of pollination and slowly eradicate several species of plants.
All mosquitoes grow to an average range of 5-6 mm long, and their bodies are all made up of the same structure. They’re built up of three main components – the head, thorax, and the abdomen. They have six long and thin legs as well as a pair of wings. On their heads, they have a pair of antennae and an organ called a proboscis, which resembles a small straw. Through the proboscis, mosquitoes inject their saliva into their victims and use a small, serrated end to feed. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t feel a mosquito bite until after it happens, it’s because their saliva contains a mild painkiller and anticoagulant.
Common Species of Mosquitoes
Anopholes mosquitoes originated in Africa and are known for transmitting Malaria. While malaria is most common in tropical environments, the Anopholes mosquito has also been able to migrate throughout the world and has been found in colder climates such as the Midwestern United States and Canada.
How To Identify:
- Wing length can reach 2.8 to 4.4 mm
- Dark brown to black in color
- Have been found everywhere in the world except for Antarctica
- In addition to being vectors of malaria, they are also known to transmit elephentiasis in humans
- Like most other species of mosquito, Anopholes lay their eggs on the surface of water, so they’re usually more abundant during rainy seasons. They’re also more active late at night until just before dawn.
- Anopholes mosquitoes usually have a life cycle of about two weeks, during which a female can lay 50-200 eggs in standing water
Culex mosquitoes are mainly found in tropical regions and have been known to transmit several diseases, such as encephalitis, filariasis and the West Nile virus.
How To Identify:
- Adults usually reach around 4mm in length
- Color is light brown with darker wings, thorax and proboscis
- The Culex mosquito can’t survive in temperatures below freezing, so they’re found throughout the Southern U.S. in the winter and migrate slightly more North throughout the summer time.
- Like most other insects, the Culex species are most active at night and like to lay their eggs on standing water. They’re especially attracted to areas that flood easily and can hold water for one-two weeks.
- Culex mosquitoes can lay up to five rafts of eggs as long as they have access to standing water, which is why it is so important to mitigate the amount of moisture around your home.
The aedes mosquito originated in Africa, like the Anopholes mosquito, but has since migrated throughout the world and can now be found throughout the Southern United States. It is a vector for several diseases, but is the primary carrier of yellow fever.
How To Identify:
- Larger than most other mosquito species, adults can reach up to 10 mm in length
- Has characteristic white eyes and black and white stripes along its body and legs
- Like most other species of mosquitoes, the Aedes prefer warm, moist climates but can also be found along the East Coast up to New York.
- In addition to yellow fever, Aedes mosquitoes also tend to transmit dengue fever and encephalitis.
- The Aedes has unique behavior in comparison to other mosquitoes because they tend to bite more during the day as well as near sunrise and sunset.
- While the Aedes mosquito needs water to lay its eggs just like most other mosquito species, it tends to prefer cavities of water, such as tree holes, old tires, planters or other objects.
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Gather the Tools You’ll Need
To protect from bites
To ward off mosquitoes
For collecting standing water
To fill in areas with standing water
Step 1: Prepare Yourself for Safety
Before you begin searching for mosquitoes’ nesting areas, make sure you’re properly dressed to avoid bites. They’ll find you no matter where you are outside, so going towards the places where they hang out means it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll get bit. Even if it’s hot outside, dress in long pants, long sleeves and gloves. If you do have any skin showing, use bug spray.
Step 2: Identify Areas With Standing Water
The next time it rains on your property, schedule a time to head outside and identify the areas where water has collected. If you have any ditches or holes, these will attract Anopholes and Culex mosquitoes. Objects like toys, planters and decorations will attract Aedes mosquitoes if they aren’t draining properly.
Step 3: Remove Water
If you can, simply dump out any objects that contain water and move them to an area where they won’t collect more water the next time it rains. If there isn’t a nearby area where you can dump out water, you can use a bucket instead and dump the bucket out near a storm drain or other area that won’t hold the water. For holes and ditches, you may need to use a shovel in order to fill in these areas.
Step 4: Create a Long-Term Plan
Even if you’ve removed as many places in your yard as possible where water collects, this may still may not be enough to solve the problem. A professional landscaper can flatten out your land more successfully than you could do with a shovel. This investment may be worth it to keep out mosquitoes for good.
You should also develop a routine schedule where you clean up outside before and after it rains. Debris like leaves, branches and piles of wood can retain moisture and block your gutters and drainage ditches, so they’ll need to be continually removed. If you have objects in your yard that can’t be removed, like bird baths, ponds or pools, these can be taken care of by drilling your own drainage holes or investing in tarps and covers. If all else fails, a pest management professional will be able to develop an integrated pest management solution to help rid your property of mosquitoes.
Like many stinging and biting insects, mosquitoes have earned a worldwide reputation for causing aggravation and much worse.
You can find them almost everywhere in the warmer months, so even in temperate regions. Not only do a million people worldwide die from mosquito-borne diseases every year, but they also transmit diseases and parasites to animals like dogs and horses. This makes it all the more important to know how keep this pest under control.
- Most mosquito-borne diseases start with flulike symptoms like fever, fatigue, and mild pain. If you experience any of these after finding mosquito bites, contact a medical professional immediately.
- Your pets can also be susceptible to mosquito-borne illnesses, so it’s important to keep them inside during the times when these pests are most active and continually pay attention to signs of illness.
- To keep mosquitoes from coming inside, install screens on your doors and windows and make sure they don’t have any holes. You can also set up a mosquito net around your bed during the seasons when they’re most prevalent so that you aren’t bitten in your sleep.
Risks of Mosquito-Borne Disease
Mosquitoes serve as vectors, or carriers, of many diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined that the Zika virus, known for causing birth defects in fetuses and paralysis in rare cases of children and adults, is transmitted by two common mosquitoes, the Northern House Mosquito (Culex pipiens) and the Eastern Treehole Mosquito (Aedes triseriatus).
Malaria, a severe and sometimes deadly disease caused by a plasmodium parasite and exhibiting flu-like symptoms, is transmitted by around 30 to 40 species of mosquitoes. It reaches humans through female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. These females take bloodmeals to carry out egg production, which links the human and mosquito hosts in the parasite life cycle.
Besides Zika and malaria, mosquitoes pass along other serious illnesses:
- Dog heartworm
- Dengue fever
- Yellow fever
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- St. Louis Encephalitis
- LaCrosse Encephalitis
- Western Equine Encephalitis
- West Nile Virus
Common Mosquito Locations
Adult mosquitoes love standing water. It is where they lay eggs and where larvae hatch, so you will never find them far from stagnant bodies of water like puddles, ponds, ditches, or slow-moving streams. They can also collect in potted plants, garden beds, and areas of poor drainage.
Once they make their way indoors, they also frequently haunt bedrooms at night, which makes mosquito netting important in countries where the insect is prevalent. If you’re on the hunt for a good mosquito net for your bedroom, there are certainly types that keep out mosquitoes better than others.
During the day and later at night, mosquitoes tend to be less noticeable, since most species only come out to feed at these times. But since the Aedes species bites all the time, it is important to protect yourself throughout the day.
The best way to avoid a mosquito problem is to avoid a population in the surrounding area.
You can’t control the climate or standing water in your next-door neighbor’s yard, but you can make your yard less conducive to mosquito breeding, thus reducing the chance they’ll linger nearby and make their way inside your home.
Eliminate Standing Water
The first step to controlling mosquitoes in your environment is to remove as much standing water as possible. Take a careful look around your home, search for all areas where water might collect, and remove water sources from your yard.
- Keep your gutters cleaned out so they drain properly.
- Hang tarps so they do not pool water, turn over old tires, and fill in unnecessary ditches.
- Get rid of anything that can act as a source of water.
- Ensure adequate drainage in your garden. Also be sure that potted plants, both indoors and out, never have standing water in the soil or trays. If you cannot store water-collecting items inside or upside down, drill drainage holes in them so any accumulated water will always run through.
- If you keep rain barrels or other rain-collection devices in your yard, keep lids on them when no rain is falling. Some pooling may be inevitable despite your best efforts, so try to keep a regular schedule of dumping any standing water you find.
- Change water in birdbaths several times a week.
- Treat swimming pools, ponds, and any other bodies of water in your yard for larvae with formulas safe for people and animals. Periodically pull up a cup of water from these areas and check for the presence of larvae, and treat or call in a professional if necessary.
Keep in mind that not all mosquitoes need standing water to lay eggs. They just need water for the eggs to hatch. Eliminating standing water will help, but there is still a chance that you’ll have to take other measures to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard. All the same, chemical and natural approaches are much less effective when mosquitoes continue to have access to the breeding grounds that standing water represents.
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There are many methods for repelling mosquitoes and reducing mosquito populations, but some are more effective than others.
There are also some herbal and natural approaches worth trying. The best way to avoid being bitten is simply to repel mosquitoes by protecting yourself with bug spray at all times.
Broadcast Treatments are exactly as they sound, and provide chemical treatment throughout your entire yard. A garden sprayer can be used to apply pyrethroid sprays on shady areas around the house, especially around entryways where resting mosquitoes are more likely to come indoors when you enter and leave. Sprays like lambda-cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin and others can work on soffits and wood siding, but they may need to be reapplied more frequently on brick to reduce the area mosquito population. There are also electric and propane mosquito foggers that can help mitigate mosquitoes in extremely marshy, dense environments. Find out which mosquito fogger might be the best option for your location.
There are also hose sprays with pyrethroid insecticides that can work on mosquitoes. These sprays should be applied to shady areas outside where mosquitoes hide in the daytime. Learn more about pyrethrin and the best mosquito products that contain pyrethrin, as well some of the best mosquito sprayers on the market.
Note that these applications are not appropriate for use indoors. Stay away from treated areas once you have applied the spray. A common approach is to create a perimeter mosquito barrier around the edge of the yard so that the space within it remains relatively mosquito-free.
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Mosquito Dunks can be placed in standing water to eliminate mosquito larvae. Often sold in brick or doughnut shapes, these chemical treatments can be very effective in eliminating larvae from standing water, and can safely be used even in ponds with fish. They typically last a month or two before you need to reapply. Note, too, that a recent study showed that using a smaller portion of the dunk than recommended worked just as well as using a whole dunk. Find out which mosquito dunk brand is the best for your yard and particular mosquito problem.
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Liquid Larvicide products are applied directly to water using backpack sprayers and truck or aircraft-mounted sprayers. To learn more about which larvicides are safe for children and pregnant women see the EPA’s approved list.
Bacterial Treatments can be a good alternative to chemicals. Bacillus thurengiensis israeliensis, or Bti, is a type of bacterium that is harmful to mosquito and black fly larvae, but won’t harm plants, fish or animals that drink from the water.
Natural and Non-Pesticide Approaches
Happily, there are products you can use that do not contain potentially harmful chemicals. Crushed herbs placed around the house and garden are a common anti-mosquito treatment, for example, and there are a number of additional natural mosquito repellent products and DIY options for effectively keeping mosquitoes at bay.
Note: in dangerous areas, DEET is still preferable, and there are many products on the market that contain DEET. Please keep in mind that if you are in an area where mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases, such as Zika or dengue, it is prudent to choose a DEET repellent solution to ensure you have the best protection available. The EPA has studied DEET several times, most recently in 2014, and states, “We continue to believe that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children.”
A variety of essential oils are reputed to repel mosquitoes. Not all essential oils are created equal in this regard, with many being of dubious value. However, a recent study confirms that lavender oil does repel mosquitoes and can be used by applying it to outdoor seating areas or windowsills, or by burning candles that contain lavender oil. In a similar vein, citronella candles, made with citronella oil, are especially popular for this purpose.
Coconut oil combined with neem oil has been shown to repel mosquitoes from humans for up to 12 hours. It is also an excellent moisturizer for the skin, so it’s a great treatment to put all over your body before going outside.
DIY Coconut Neem Recipe
- 1 part coconut oil
- 1 part neem oil
Mix the oils together and place them in a sealed container. You can continuously use the mixture, and unlike bug spray, the scent isn’t strong or unpleasant. You can even use it as a daily moisturizer so you won’t have to worry about putting on bug repellant later on.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Some people claim that if you consume enough apple cider vinegar, you will be less appealing to mosquitoes, making this pantry staple an effective way to repel them. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to back up its use as a repellent. However, apple cider vinegar can help ease the itching that occurs after you are bitten. It can also be combined with essential oils, like citronella, in a spray bottle and applied to your body to ward off mosquitoes.
DIY Vinegar Spray Recipe
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 40 drops of citronella oil
Shake the ingredients inside of your spray bottle and use the solution as an environmentally friendly, natural substitute to standard bug sprays.
Lemon balm is a popular herb in many herb gardens, and for good reason. It contains a high concentration of citronella and smells pleasant to humans while still being effective on mosquitoes. You can crush up lemon balm and rub it on your skin, especially on areas that mosquitoes like, including your ankles and arms. Even if you don’t want to put it on yourself, simply having it in your garden will repel mosquitoes from the surrounding area.
There are a lot of homemade recipes out there for mosquito control, but one of the strangest has to be combining Epsom salt with beer and Listerine mouthwash and applying it to the skin. As weird as it sounds, though, it has been studied and shown to be effective.
Placing a dryer sheet in your pocket has been a popular method of mosquito repellent gardeners have employed for years. While there was a study conducted that showed that dryer sheets effectively repelled gnats, it has not actually been proven to work as well with mosquitoes.
Coffee grounds can be used to repel mosquitoes from water, preventing adults from laying eggs in an area. A 2015 study showed that adult mosquitoes will not lay eggs in water treated with coffee. When you place enough grounds in the water, it makes the water into a liquid similar to the coffee in your coffee cup. The mosquitoes avoid the liquid and go elsewhere.
It’s been clinically proven that pennies left in small containers of water prevent mosquito larvae from developing out of eggs. These may not work for large bodies of water like ponds or reflecting pools, but may work for smaller containers like birdbaths and architectural elements.
Mosquito Traps and Zappers
Traps are another way of dealing with mosquitoes without applying chemicals. Mosquito traps work by baiting mosquitoes into an enclosed area, where they are either trapped with a net, become stuck to an adhesive, or are electrocuted on contact. Different types of mosquitoes respond differently to different mosquito traps, so no one type is effective for every species. If you have more than one kind of mosquito nearby — which most areas do — don’t rely on traps as your only repellent method.
Mosquito magnets are another product that is widely used for controlling mosquitoes, a trap that draws in the insects and eliminates them. A study has demonstrated that the Mosquito Magnet brand in particular is quite effective, even more effective than some other traps available commercially. We’ve outlined some of the other best mosquito magnets on the market to cater to a range of needs and budgets.
The American Mosquito Control Association says that while bug zappers do kill mosquitoes, they do not eliminate a substantial number. Studies showed that there was the same amount of mosquitoes in the yards of homes with or without bug zappers. Bug zappers also kill a wide variety of other insects, which may have a negative impact on the surrounding area. However, we’ve found some of the best mosquito zappers available for purchase that can help your mosquito problems if you spend a lot of time outside and want to eradicate mosquitoes from a certain area of your lawn.
Find out what the best brands of mosquito traps are, so you know you can rely on them when purchasing one at the store.
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More effective mosquito solutions involve protecting your own skin, so that no matter where you go, you’ll keep mosquitoes away, and, in turn, the diseases they carry. When it comes to bug repellents, you can opt for chemical repellents or natural methods. We’ve outlined some below, which include both chemical and natural options, but we also have a list of some of the best mosquito repellents you can buy at a store if want one right away.
A staple for communities in the tropics, mosquito netting is a highly effect means of keeping mosquitoes at bay. If you’re only sitting out on your porch on day and would rather not apply repellent to your skin, you can hang mosquito netting or buy a pavilion or tent equipped with netting to enjoy the outdoors free of insects.
For consistent (and mobile) protection from mosquitoes, however, your best bet is DEET, less commonly known as N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide or diethyltoluamide. This active ingredient is present in most mosquito repellents and is very effective. While the mechanisms for DEET’s effectiveness are still unclear, it most likely works because mosquitoes hate its smell.
Natural and DIY Applications
As noted above, natural alternatives to DEET include repellents made from essential oils such as mint, lavender, citronella, cloves, eucalyptus, lemongrass, tea tree, and rosemary. Combined with water and witch hazel and applied to the skin, many trust these substances to keep mosquitoes away. However, they should not be relied on in areas where diseases like malaria or Zika are common. Natural repellents are a better option in areas with a low prevalence of mosquitoes, inside the home, or in areas where mosquitoes are less dangerous.
One popular way to keep mosquitoes away is to consume garlic. It’s not clear why garlic makes humans less attractive to mosquitoes, but studies have shown that those who consume it in significant quantities are less likely to be bitten. Garlic also works as an effective repellent, and several commercial mosquito treatments use garlic and essences of garlic as an active ingredient.
Some other repellent methods include mosquito bracelets and mosquito candles, which often contain essential oils such as citronella. Mosquitoes may be an incredibly prevalent pest, but luckily there may have been so many different methods developed to deter them.
Protecting Your Pets
Dogs, cats, and horses are also susceptible to some diseases carried by mosquitoes. Heartworm can be fatal to dogs if unchecked. Some formulas such as DEET aren’t options, as they work differently on animal nervous systems than on human ones. Some dog treatments, such as K9 Advantix II, are effective repellents but are also toxic to cats. The best approach is to consult a veterinarian, who can discuss the best options for treating all your pets without endangering any of them.
These DIY methods are cheap and effective ways to combat a small mosquito problem, but not enough to treat a large infestation that is causing you or your family harm.
If the mosquito problem in your area appears to be out of control, you may wish to call in professional mosquito control. This is the best option if you want to spray large areas of your yard or treat large standing bodies of water. Professionals can ensure that you don’t use the wrong chemicals, accidentally use toxic amounts, or employ formulas unsafe for your family or pets. Their treatments are more likely to take all variables into account and ensure that your money is well spent.
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