How to Control Mosquitoes in Outdoor Areas

Mosquito-proof yourself and your property this spring and summer. These tips will help you eliminate mosquitoes around your home and farm.

by Debbie Wolfe
PHOTO: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Like most people, you are probably not a big fan of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes play a role in the environment—they are food for bats as well as certain other insects and small fish. Unfortunately, their bites are itchy, they spread disease and they can make outdoor time downright unbearable. Keep them from taking over your outdoor space. There are a few things you can do to help keep mosquitoes at bay.

Mosquito Facts

The best way to defeat an enemy is to learn as much as you can about it. Here are a few interesting facts about these pesky winged insects.

  • Only female mosquitoes bite. The female mosquito bites to obtain a blood meal in order to lay eggs. Male mosquitoes feed on plant juices.
  • Mosquitoes hibernate once temperatures are 50 degrees or less. A female mosquito can live as long as three weeks during the summer. Some live for several months over the winter in order to lay eggs in the spring.
  • They can drink up to three times their weight in blood.
  • There are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes, only 175 of which are found in the United States.
  • They feed day and night.

How to Keep Mosquitoes Away

You can buy a bunch of mosquito-repelling devices, but few can control the mosquito population in your yard. The key to getting rid of mosquitoes around your living space is to make it less inviting for them. Mosquitoes like cool, wet areas. They love to breed and live in these areas:

  • tall grass, weeds and brush near homes and other buildings
  • tin cans, buckets or other containers that hold stagnant water
  • storm drains and catch basins in urban areas
  • septic seepage
  • agricultural irrigation

The good news? Controlling the mosquito population only takes a few steps. Here are some no-nonsense tips for keeping mosquitoes out of your land and away from you.

Remove Stagnant Water

Get rid of any stagnant water. Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycles. An adult female lays 100 to 400 eggs at a time. The eggs hatch into larvae in two to three days. Mosquitoes lay eggs in any amount of stagnant water. The amount of water that would fit in a bottle cap is enough for eggs. Empty outdoor water toys, wheelbarrows and other outdoor tools that can hold water after a rainfall. Also, keep your gutters and drain lines clear of clogged leaves and branches that cause water to pool.

Cut Back & Change Vegetation

Mosquitoes love to rest in cool, shady spots. Break out the weed whacker and pruners–it’s time to trim. Cut back high grasses, trim the bushes and trees. Letting in more sun helps dry up any wet spots. Mosquitos lay eggs in any dips in bare soil that collect water, too. Reseed with grass or plant a mosquito repelling plant to help eliminate potential breeding ground.

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Plant Natural Repellents

Mosquitoes and other biting insects avoid several types of plants because of their strong odor. Fortunately, what mosquitoes find off-putting can smell wonderful to people. Some mosquito repelling plants include lavender, citronella, scented geranium, basil, rosemary and catnip. These plants are easy to grow and produce wonderful scents throughout a garden. Plant them near walkways, doorways and patios. Pop them in pots and line them around your porch or deck. When you are working in the yard, grab a handful of leaves, crush them and rub the essential oils liberally over any exposed skin.

Use Repellents Wisely

Most commercially available mosquito repellents contain harmful chemicals. If you need to use them because of a particularly bad infestation, do so in limited amounts. DEET is by far the most effective in preventing mosquito bites. Incidentally, it’s not made to repel mosquitoes but blocks the insects’ ability to feed. It works only on contact. Although deemed safe for use, use DEET only when needed. Avoid yard work during peak feeding times (dawn and dusk), and cover up.

Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

It seems like some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others. Mosquitoes don’t bite randomly. Some people (and animals) are more attractive than others. It has nothing to do with looks—rather, it’s gas, namely carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes find their target by following exhaled carbon dioxide trails. Some people give off more CO2 than others. If you get more bites, it is because you are easier for mosquitoes to find. You are more at risk for mosquito bites if:

  • You are pregnant or overweight: The extra weight and heavier breathing produces more CO2.
  • You recently had alcohol: Alcohol increases metabolic rate and the amount of CO2.
  • You have a higher body temperature.
  • You have sweat or certain odors on your skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to octeno, a chemical released in sweat, cholesterol, folic acid, certain bacteria, skin lotions and perfume.
  • You have recently exercised: A raised metabolic rate increases your CO2 emission.
  • You wear dark clothing: Mosquitoes can see dark colors better
  • You are smelly: Mosquitoes find old sweat more appealing

Don’t let mosquitoes ruin your outdoor time. Armed with the right knowledge, you can control the mosquito population on our property with a few simple steps.

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