Nothing ruins a summer evening in the garden quite like a cloud of whining mosquitoes. Not only are they irritating and leave itchy bites, but in some areas, they also bring disease. While mosquitoes are all but unavoidable in wet climates, there’s still a lot you can do to minimize the amount of these insects in your garden and home.
You don’t need potentially harmful chemicals, either. Many of the most effective methods for getting rid of mosquitoes are completely natural.
Clean Up Your Yard and Garden
The first step in getting rid of mosquitoes on your property is to get rid of their breeding grounds. Mosquitoes need standing water to breed, but they don’t need much. Even a plant saucer with half an inch of water is enough to provide mosquitoes with a breeding site.
Look around your yard and garden for anything holding standing water and get rid of it. This includes unused flower pots, buckets, kids’ toys, and wading pools. Pull tarps tight and secure them so there are no low areas where water could accumulate.
Any source of standing water you want to keep, such as bird baths, your pet’s water bowl, and plant saucers, should be tipped out and refilled weekly. It takes just eight to 10 days for mosquito eggs to turn into adult mosquitoes, so never let water sit longer than this.
If you have standing water that’s impractical to drain, such as a drainage ditch, water garden, fish pond or rain barrel, consider using mosquito dunks. These tablets release an insecticide that kills mosquito larvae, but doesn’t harm wildlife, pets or people. To use them, just drop them into the water. Most are effective for around 30 days.
For small amounts of water, try sprinkling in used coffee grounds or pouring in coffee made from used coffee grounds. Coffee inhibits mosquito eggs from developing into larvae and discourages adult mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water.
Mosquitoes also need organic material to survive, which is why they tend to flourish in the deep woods. Keeping your lawn and garden well manicured reduces the mosquito habitat space around your home. Keep your grass mowed and your shrubbery trimmed. Prune back tree branches that hang low to the ground.
Drive the Bugs Away
Once you’ve eliminated the mosquito attractants from your property, consider what you can add to repel these insects. Mosquitoes dislike the scent of certain aromatic herbs and flowers. Placing these plants around your garden seating areas can keep mosquitoes from bothering you while you’re outdoors relaxing or enjoying a meal.
To discourage mosquitoes from entering your home, place these plants in window boxes, on your balconies, and around your doors. A few good choices are:
- Lemon balm
- Lemon grass
Because the scent of red cedar repels mosquitoes, spreading red cedar mulch on your flowerbeds is an ideal way to keep both weeds and mosquitoes to a minimum. If you’d rather not mulch your garden, you can create a mosquito repellent by boiling red cedar mulch in water, pouring the resulting liquid into a spray bottle and spraying it wherever you want to get rid of mosquitoes outdoors. You’ll need to reapply the spray approximately every two weeks as well as after heavy rainfall.
Commercially produced mosquito repellents are also an option. These are available as sprays or granules and are typically made with oils that produce a scent mosquitoes dislike, but that won’t harm plants, people or animals. They’re designed to be applied to the grass or other landscaping plants around the edge of your property to create a barrier against mosquitoes. Most sprays should be reapplied every two or three weeks throughout the season.
Encouraging mosquitoes’ natural predators is another eco-friendly approach to mosquito control, and it’s an especially practical way to go if you have a water feature, such as a pond or water garden, that many of these predators enjoy as much as the mosquitoes do.
Invite mosquito-eating bats by setting up bat boxes, planting night-scented flowers, and reducing the artificial lighting in your garden. Buy dragonfly larvae to add to water features, such as ponds, that don’t contain fish. Fish are likely to eat the dragonfly larvae before these larvae can do any good. Create gently sloped edges on your pond and add leafy plants there to encourage frogs and newts.
Defend Your Home
Taking steps to reduce the mosquito population around your house goes a long way toward keeping your home mosquito free. When it comes to the house itself, though, mosquito-proof windows and doors are your first line of defense. Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible unless they’re equipped with tightly fitting screens of the correct mesh size.
Standard window screens contain 18-by-16 mesh, but in mosquito-heavy areas, you’ll be better off with a finer mesh of 18 by 14. Periodically inspect the screens for damage such as tears or bent frames that give bugs a way to slip through.
Remember that mosquitoes can breed indoors, too, so look around your home for any standing water that should be removed or replaced regularly. This includes flower vases, plant saucers, and puddles from leaky pipes.
To keep mosquitoes away from your seating or dining areas, position an electric fan to blow over the area. The breeze diffuses the carbon dioxide mosquitoes use to locate their prey while also making it harder for them to fly. Placing a few dry sprigs of eucalyptus in vases around the house can also help because mosquitoes find the scent distasteful.
If you’re dealing with a mosquito invasion at home, camphor is one of the most effective natural ways to solve the problem. Camphor, a waxy substance from the camphor laurel tree, produces a strong odor mosquitoes avoid. To clear a room of mosquitoes, fill four small bowls with water and place two camphor tablets in each bowl, then place one bowl in each corner of the room.
For a faster solution, place one or two tablets on a heat-safe plate and leave it on a warm surface, such as a radiator, to increase the camphor’s rate of evaporation. Never leave camphor unattended near any warm surface because there’s a small chance that it can catch fire.
Burning camphor is an especially effective way to get rid of the mosquitoes in a room, but beware that the smoke created is unpleasant for people, too. If you decide to go this route, keep the doors and windows closed for one hour after burning the camphor, then open them to let out the smell and any remaining insects.
If you’d prefer your natural mosquito spray to have a scent you can actually enjoy, create your own spray using essential oils from the same mosquito-repellent plants you might grow in your garden, such as lavender, peppermint, and lemon balm.
To make the spray, fill a 12-ounce container with alcohol-free witch hazel and add 10 to 15 drops each of four or five mosquito-repelling oils in any combination you find appealing. Blend the mixture well and pour it into a spray bottle. Avoid spraying the repellent directly onto fabric, wallpaper or any other surface that could be stained by oils.
Using these oils in an aromatherapy burner is another option. To do this, add two to three drops each of two or three mosquito-repelling essential oils to the water in your burner.
Don’t have any essential oils on hand? You can still make a simple mosquito spray by boiling garlic and spraying the resulting water into the air.
Lay a Trap
When repellents aren’t enough, it might be time for a more active approach. While you can buy mosquito traps from most home and garden centers during the summer, it’s easy enough to make your own.
Start by cutting a plastic 2-liter bottle in half. Boil 6 to 7 ounces of tap water to remove the chlorine. Add 4 tablespoons of white or brown sugar to the water. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then allow the solution to cool completely. Add 1/2 ounce brewer’s yeast. Don’t stir this mixture. Letting the brewer’s yeast sit in the sugar solution is what creates the reaction that attracts mosquitoes.
Pour the mixture into the bottom half of the bottle. Place the top half upside down on the bottom half to create a funnel and tape the two pieces together, ideally with black electrician’s tape. Place the trap where mosquitoes are most likely to gather. This trap should work for up to two weeks.
Dry ice, while somewhat hard to handle, is also an option for trapping mosquitoes. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, so it emits a large amount of mosquito-attracting gaseous carbon dioxide as it warms. Just placing some in a container away from where you’re sitting helps draw the mosquitoes toward the dry ice and away from you. Always use insulated gloves or tongs when handling dry ice to avoid injuring your hands. If you have trouble breathing around it, leave the room immediately.
Typically, five pounds of dry ice will last 24 hours if not broken into smaller pieces. Once the dry ice has evaporated completely, and you’ve got some mosquitoes in the container, close the container.
Mosquitoes are one of the biggest annoyances of summer, but you don’t have to let them ruin your enjoyment of the season. Just maintaining your lawn and garden in a way that prevents mosquitoes from breeding does a lot to keep these bugs away. Beyond this, taking advantage of natural repellents such as camphor and citronella oil can help you get rid of any mosquitoes that manage to find their way into your home.