In the warm summer months and well into fall, many of us are drawn outdoors. We spend time with family and friends, grilling, entertaining on the patio, and even camping out. One thing that can really detract from our time outdoors is mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the warmer months mean mosquito season.
Mosquitoes may be one of humanity’s least favorite insects. They drink blood, spread disease, and leave you with big itchy welts. Frankly, they’re terrible and can make even the biggest outdoor enthusiast run for the comfort of indoors.
So, how do we prevent and get rid of these pests? What are the best mosquito killer products, and how can we protect our families and ourselves from annoying bites?
Why do mosquitoes seem to like us so much? Like all warm-blooded animals, humans create carbon dioxide, a powerful attractant for mosquitoes. In fact, they can sense CO2 from about 75 feet away, which draws them right to us. Additionally, the humidity of breath, sweat, and body heat attract mosquitoes. Lactic acid and octanol are additional chemicals our bodies produce, which mosquitoes love.
Mosquito bites swell, itch, and cause discomfort. The biggest drawback, though, is the danger of blood-borne diseases like Malaria, Dengue Fever, and West Nile virus.
Only female mosquitoes bite because they use blood protein to produce eggs, which they typically lay in stagnant water. Mosquitoes are also drawn to dark clothing, bright colors, and floral prints. If you want to avoid attracting mosquitos, wear lighter-colored clothes that are fitted and thick, especially when camping, hiking, or spending longer periods of time outdoors.
So, what are the details on mosquitoes? What do you need to know to avoid the blood-sucking bites? And how can you get them to “bug off” when you’re relaxing in the yard?
First of all, there are many varieties and species of mosquitoes. The Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes genera mosquitoes are the most common in the United States. Each type can carry and spread different illnesses and thrives in a different environment.
The Culex mosquito is ubiquitous throughout the United States and is a prime carrier of West Nile Virus. These mosquitoes are drawn to birds, so they tend to lay eggs in standing water and in still, freshwater areas. You can prevent these mosquitoes by dumping out any standing water, regularly cleaning your bird baths, and moving any water features away from gathering areas. These are often common near boats, rafts, and other spots where water pools.
The Aedes mosquito carries Zika, Dengue, Yellow fever, and other nasty illnesses. These mosquitoes love to bite humans and are prevalent in the Southern United States, East Coast, Midwest, and throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Aedes also love standing water and need a tiny amount to reproduce. Even a flowerpot or small puddle can give them space to thrive.
Another mosquito that has flourished, especially in the West, is the Anopheles mosquito. The Anopheles reproduce in swampy water, marshes, bogs, and ponds. These mosquitoes avoid the heat of the day, coming out in the dusk. They’re one of the main carriers of Malaria, which has only recently become a concern in the United States (mainly in Texas and Florida).
Knowing the type of mosquito is helpful for deciding on the best type of mosquito killer product, but it's not critical. You can still take steps to prevent mosquitoes in general by making the environment in your yard less hospital to these pests.
Mosquitoes are a bug where the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," really applies. If you want the best way to keep mosquitoes out of your yard and off your body, the most essential step is to eliminate all areas where mosquito populations might thrive.
Clean up, dry, and store any flowerpots and planters that aren't in use. Dump out saucers beneath the pots that may hold even a small amount of water. Make the environment as inhospitable to mosquito larvae as possible by cleaning up debris and brush. Keep your grass trimmed and your garden free of weeds. Pick up all lawn and garden items around your yard, storing them in a dry spot. You can use mosquito dunks in ponds, bird baths, and other areas with standing water (the dunks generally will not harm birds, fish, and other wildlife).
Surprisingly enough, one of the biggest lovers of mosquitoes is the bat. While most people aren't a fan of finding bats in their attic or nestled beneath their shutters, offering bats a home near the perimeter of your yard can help you keep those pesky bugs at bay. Do It Best has a helpful guide to teach you how to keep bats out of your house (and in their own home).
If you've taken steps to prevent mosquitoes and still find them feasting on your blood when you go outside, try the following types of mosquito killer products to keep them under control.
When it comes to the selection of mosquito killer products, there are many effective options available. If you feel like mosquitoes have taken over your yard or infested your camping trip, don’t despair! There are solutions to protect yourself and others from bites.
Mosquito foggers are an effective way to clear your yard and lawn of mosquitoes—especially if you’re preparing to entertain or spend time out enjoying your yard. Most foggers contain an aerosol insect repellent. They require use 24 hours in advance, and then they continue working for up to 30 days, reducing the presence of stinging and biting insects, including mosquitoes. One drawback of foggers is that they can also kill helpful insects (those that eat mosquitoes), so use foggers in moderation. Check the fogger details to know how many square feet of coverage area you get from each container, but most are suited to large spaces.
Bug repellent is one of the most effective ways to keep biting bugs, including mosquitoes, off your body. In some studies, the active ingredient DEET is shown to be one of the most effective mosquito repellents, but natural sprays containing lemongrass oil were also effective. In fact, DEET sprays do not seem as effective at repelling the Culex mosquito as lemongrass and PMD (p-menthane 3,8-dio, a derivative of oil of lemon eucalyptus). Picaridin sprays are also helpful and offer a DEET-free alternative solution for repelling bugs—making them some of the best mosquito repellents, safe for kids and general outdoor use with hours of protection. Finally, treating clothing and gear with Permethrin can also help keep mosquitoes and ticks away.
Bug zappers are useful for bugs that come out at dawn and dusk. These typically emit an ultraviolet light or a scent that attracts the insects, drawing them through an electric grid to “zap” or electrocute the bugs. The drawback of bug zappers is that they are indiscriminate, killing beneficial insects as well as annoying ones. Do bug zappers work for mosquitoes? A UV light bug zapper is a good solution if you’re sitting in one location for a period of time and don’t want to be bothered by flying insects, but as far as mosquitoes go, most have little long-term impact or protection. Zappers are useful for small areas like a porch. They can also be an excellent option for indoor use. Place a zapper near your patio or mudroom, especially if you aren't using screens or fans to keep out bugs.
Are mosquito traps really effective? Mosquito traps and lures work in a variety of ways, typically using CO2, scented attractant, or water to lure mosquitoes and trap them in a container you can safely dispose of. Some use glue boards or sticky traps. These traps and repellent mats can be a great option for reducing the number of mosquitoes and keeping them from invading your yard. It's important to note, though, that mosquitoes will still be more attracted to humans. Some carbon dioxide mosquito traps can also attract more mosquitoes to the area (even though they are likely to be trapped and killed).
There are many alternative products for killing mosquitoes, including citronella candles, bug bracelets, essential oils, and electronic mosquito repellents. Many of these are safe and somewhat effective. The best method for preventing mosquitoes is to use personal insect repellents containing Picaridin, lemongrass, or a similar more natural repellant and combining it with outdoor mosquito solutions for the yard. Treat your outdoor space with bug spray 24 hours before you plan to gather.
The other important step you can take is to ensure that your yard is mosquito-free is to eliminate any standing water, debris, and breeding areas that can draw them in. Mosquitoes are most active during the evenings and nighttime, so plan outdoor activities to avoid those times. The best outdoor mosquito killer is a mosquito trap combined with personal insect repellent and occasional yard spray.
As for the best indoor mosquito killer, a bug zapper will eliminate any flying insects that make their way indoors, including fruit flies and noseeums. Indoor mosquito traps are also effective. Window screens let you get fresh air while keeping out biting bugs. You can also keep a box fan pointed at doorways or on your screened porch to create a breezeway against pests.
Don't let mosquitoes ruin your summer. With a few preventative steps, you can keep these blood-sucking creatures away from your family and still enjoy your time outdoors (and in). Your local Do It Best has all the mosquito-repelling products you need to stay safe and healthy during the year's warmer months!