Itchy mosquito bites can spoil the fun of being outdoors in the summer. Mosquitos aren’t just annoying, they can spread diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and Dengue. Here are some strategies for combating these unwelcome pesks.
Understand the Breeding Cycle
To effectively control the mosquito population in your backyard, it is important to understand how mosquitos multiply. Females lay their eggs on the inner, wet walls of containers filled with stagnant water. A single female typically lays about 100 eggs at a time. Once the eggs are covered with water, the larvae hatch and feed on microorganisms in the water. Then the larvae go through the pupae stage and develop into adult mosquitoes. This cycle repeats over and over. A key strategy for mosquito control is to interrupt this cycle.
Get Rid of Standing Water
The most effective way to rid your yard of mosquitos is to eliminate all sources of standing water. Water can accumulate in plant containers, bird baths, trash cans, toys, plastic pools—anything that holds water. Mosquitos even lay eggs in containers as small as a bottle cap.
Find ways to mosquito proof large containers of standing water that can’t be easily emptied. If you have a rain barrel, cover the opening with a fine screen. If you have a pond, stock it with mosquito-eating fish.
Pay Attention to Landscaping
Don’t let your grass and landscaping become overgrown. Mosquitos hide from the heat in overgrown flower beds and tall grass. Some plants in Texas that repel mosquitos are citronella, catnip, lavender, marigolds and basil. Include a few of these plants in pots or beds close to seating areas and near doors.
Make a DYI Mosquito Larvae Trap
Try a homemade mosquito larvae trap as an alternative to spraying your yard. This homemade trap will attract mosquitos and kill larvae after the eggs hatch. It won’t harm other insects or animals.
Here’s how to make an effective mosquito larvae trap:
- Gather supplies. You will need a large bucket, Mosquito Dunk® and a handful of grass or hay.
- Fill the bucket half full of water. Mosquitos lay eggs on wet walls of the container so leave some room. The eggs hatch into larvae when covered with water.
- Add a handful of grass or hay. This ferments and creates carbon dioxide to attract female mosquitoes.
- Add a Mosquito Dunk,® an inexpensive, small, hard, beige donut-shaped cake that releases a bacterium toxic to mosquito larvae. Each dunk covers up to 100 square feet of water so you can break it into pieces if you like. It lasts for 30 days or more.
- Sink the Mosquito Dunk® (optional). Some people like to sink the mosquito dunk to the bottom to keep it from being taken by a pet or squirrel. Put the dunk in a net bag (like onions come in) and add a rock. Close with string or a twist tie. This will keep the dunk on the bottom of the bucket.
- Cover the bucket (optional). If you have pets who may want to drink out of the bucket, cover it with chicken wire. Don’t use a fine screen that might prevent mosquitos from getting in.
Every 30 days or so, add water if needed to keep the bucket half full. You may need to pour out some water after a hard rain. Another option is to drill holes around the top edge of the bucket so it doesn’t overflow.
Use Insect Repellent
Even if you dramatically reduce the mosquito population in your backyard, these pesky insects may breed in your neighbor’s yard and come over. To prevent mosquito bites, wear clothing that covers the arms and legs. Spray exposed skin with an EPA-registered insect repellent.
Brenda Schoolfield is a medical writer and editor who lives in Austin. Sugar, her cocker spaniel, and sometimes a rescue foster dog or two keep her company while she writes.