In February, I read about the Jumanji effect; hibernating animals were awakening earlier than usual due to warmer than usual temperatures. The article went on to talk about the unseasonably warm winter we had, and what we can expect this summer including more ticks (due to soaring deer populations that survived the mild winter) and more mosquitos (due, in part, to decreasing bat populations that have been plagued by a fungus). Deer and bats aside, we should expect more bugs simply because with this year’s unseasonably warm winter, they have managed to survive in greater numbers. So with an even buggier-than-usual summer on the horizon, what can you do to make being outside an enjoyable, less-than-pest-dominated experience?
DIY Natural Mosquito Control Solutions
The best thing to do is to minimize or eliminate any areas of open water in your yard that might be places for mosquitoes to lay and grow their eggs (they’ll either lay them on the water surface or on the ground next to it.) If your yard has a frequently-watered flower bed or you have any area that is poorly leveled and holds water after a rain, you have an ideal breeding area for mosquitoes. Larvae can live in very little water, even in wet foliage. Other obvious areas are flower pots, bird baths, roof gutters, rain barrels, streams and ponds, unused swimming pools and outdoor tubs.
Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelenis bacteria (Bti). This bacteria will infect and kill mosquitos, gnats and black fly larvae. Bti won’t harm anything else including other insects, fish, birds, worms or mammals. You can buy Bti as a dunk to submerge in standing water or buy the bacteria in bits that you can broadcast across your garden. It starts working within 24 hours.
Mentioned above, bats are one of nature’s most effective mosquito controls. Some bat species can eat 500-1000 mosquitos per night. Bats come out in the evening and sleep during the day so you’ll never know they’re around. Buy a bat house.
I won’t claim this to be a very effective approach, but there are a number of plants with repellant effects – their fragrance essentially blocks mosquitos’ ability to smell the things that attract them; these include marigolds, rosemary, and ageratum. Crushing some of the leaves when you are nearby to release fragrance can help. In the same vein, throw a bit of rosemary or sage on the fire when you barbeque. Marigolds are pretty “smelly” on their own so some claim just planting large beds of them helps. And, of course, there are always citronella products (made from citronella grass) such as candles or oil that can be burned in lamps and sprays.
Natural Mosquito Control – Professional Help
Landscaping companies such as ours also offer natural solutions for mosquito control. These natural solutions are repellants rather than insecticides and are effective for about 24 hours. Clients having a special occasion outdoor party often opt for this solution. Pyrethrin (used in natural sprays) is made from extracts of a chrysanthemum plant grown primarily in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ecuador. Natural pyrethrin is a contact poison that rapidly penetrates the nervous system of mosquitoes and other insects. (They are toxic to ants, roaches, silverfish, mosquitoes, wasps, spiders, crickets and basically all insects and garden pests.) Within a few minutes after pyrethrin is applied, mosquitoes are paralyzed and unable to fly away. In most cases, pyrethrin alone is not enough to kill mosquitoes, and it is gradually detoxified by the enzymes in the mosquito. Sunlight also degrades pyrethrin so your yard is left residue-free. Although pyrethrin comes from flowers, it is not completely correct to think of it as either “natural” or “organic” because it is highly refined and contains a man-made “synergist” that increases its effectiveness.
Garlic-based solutions are another natural option. Like chrysanthemum-based solutions, they are repellants rather than insecticides and their lifespan is limited, requiring more frequent spraying for ongoing efficacy. Spray systems (see below) designed for garlic-based solutions need to be high pressure, so the smell can be more intense, but the solution can be diluted with water and effectively used for cooling the air as well.
Mosquito Control Spray Systems
For homeowners who want to enjoy their yard throughout the summer and need consistent and reliable mosquito control, installing a spray system may be the answer. These systems feature inconspicuous nozzles and dispense a very fine mist. Bonick Landscaping offers the MistAway control system that uses formulations that are safe for both pets and people. MistAway has several advantages over other spray systems:
• Systems have the ability to agitate the contents to ensure a consistent blend of active ingredients in every mosquito mist.
• If the system is somehow damaged and a leak occurs, the system will automatically suspend operation until the leak can be repaired.
• Every system has an optional wind sensor. The controller is programmed to check the wind speed before each scheduled mosquito mist cycle. It will check the wind every minute for five minutes, and if the wind is above a predetermined speed, the unit will go into hibernation until the next regularly scheduled cycle.
A word of caution: it is important to use knowledgeable, professional mosquito mist installers you can trust to install your mosquito control system as improperly installed mosquito systems can damage and burn plants.
On a final note, with this past winter being the fourth warmest on record and insects emerging to find food earlier in the season than usual, OFF!® Insect Repellents ranked the top 50 American metro areas to identify which cities are most affected by mosquitoes and other biting bugs. Dallas ranked in the top 20 at #17. Are you feeling itchy yet?