Spraying insect repellent on skin outdoor.

A Safer Way To Treat Mosquitoes

Excerpted from: How To Safely Get Rid Of Mosquitoes
Excerpted from: Xerces Mosquito Management

With warming temperatures comes the drone of mosquitoes in our parks and yards and the battle begins to reclaim picnics, backyards and outdoor activities.

Though you may have disease concerns, there are approximately 175 mosquito species in the United States, and only a few of them transmit disease. Even those species that can spread diseases are often not infected.

Mosquito sprays can harm beneficial insects, like this green lacewing larva busy eating an aphid. Contaminated flowers can still be toxic the next day for foraging bees, and butterfly larvae can be exposed even if spray happens early or late in the day.

  The Problem With Pesticides

Unfortunately, the insecticide sprays used by pest control companies can be harmful to a wide variety of other insects. Some products carry misleading advertising, saying they are designed to act like the natural toxin found in chrysanthemum flowers. But, these products are still harmful to a number of beneficial insects.

The other challenge with spraying is that mosquitos are highly mobile insects, and even if you kill adults, new ones will quickly move into your yard.

  Safer Methods To Control Mosquitoes

Mosquito pupae and larvae.
Mosquito pupae and larvae.

Fortunately, there’s a much more effective way to reduce your itchy bites this summer and protect pollinators in your yard. Most important is to focus on eliminating areas where mosquitoes breed.

  Dump Standing Water

The most important way to do this is to eliminate standing water. Mosquitoes need water to reproduce; adults lay their eggs in still water, where they hatch and the larvae feed on microorganisms.

After the mosquitoes pupate, adults take flight and leave the water. This entire process takes only 8 to 10 days. Mosquitos only need 1 inch of water to reproduce, so water that stands around for just over 1 week can lead to a population explosion.

Look around your yard

  Dump water from buckets and trash cans, and look for hidden flower pots that may have filled with rain over the winter and spring.
  Clogged gutters can be a surprise source of standing water for mosquitoes, so ensure they are free of debris.
  Finally, every few days, dump and refill water sources like pet bowls and bird baths to prevent any mosquito larvae from completing their life cycle.

  Give Them A BTI Cocktail

For bodies of standing water that can’t be drained, try using a Bti product. Bti is a bacterium that specifically targets mosquito larvae without affecting other organisms. When the larvae ingest the Bti, it kills them within minutes.

You can find Bti products in garden stores. They come in many forms, including tablets, granules, pellets and liquids. Follow the directions on the product regarding frequency of application.

  Plant Natural Deterrents

Placing whiskey barrel planters with plants that repel mosquitoes in strategic locations was a method that can be used to reduce the number of mosquitoes.

Plant bee balm, marigolds, spotted geraniums, lavender, sweet fern and citronella around the edge of the barrels, with cherry tomatoes and basil in the middle. It’s not enough to plant mosquito-repellent species, but you have to activate them. When people pick the tomatoes or herbs, they brush the other plants, which then give off chemicals that interfere with the mosquitoes’ ability to navigate and find prey. Suitable options may also include rosemary, peppermint, catnip, garlic and sage.

  Attract Natural Predators

Investigate which birds in your region eat mosquitoes and are willing to nest in bird boxes, then learn how to attract them. Both tree swallows and Eastern bluebirds are voracious insect eaters. The best news is once you build the infrastructure, it needs little maintenance.

Bats are also voracious insect eaters and you can install bat houses to increase the number of those mosquito-hungry predators.

Further Information on Garden Pests:

 Groundhog Facts and Control
 How To Get Rid Of Ants
 All About Aphids and Their Control
 Voles — Both the Good and the Bad

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