Nothing ruins a good time outdoors like a swarm of mosquitoes. In addition to painful, itchy bites, mosquitoes can carry diseases like Zika, malaria, West Nile virus and yellow fever. Though infection is relatively rare, it makes sense to take precautions against bites for both health and comfort.
Don’t let mosquitoes ruin your favorite outdoor activities. Take these five steps to make sure they don’t overrun your favorite outdoor space.
1. Eliminate standing water
Mosquitoes use standing water as their breeding ground, and females can lay more than 100 eggs per batch. What’s more, those eggs hatch in just 24 to 48 hours and will be fully mature mosquitoes within about two weeks.
Mosquitoes can’t breed or survive without standing water, so your best line of defense is a dry, clean yard. Throw out water that’s collected in flower pots, cover your rain barrels if you have them and drain the water from your gutters and splash blocks.
If you have a pool, you’ll need to be diligent with cleanliness and water treatment to keep it unfriendly to mosquito larvae.
2. Stock your pond with natural predators
If you have standing water in your backyard that you can’t get rid of, like a decorative pond, introduce a few natural predators. Many kinds of fish are great at killing off mosquitoes.
One species of fish is so known for killing mosquitoes that they’re named after them: Gambusia affinis, the mosquitofish. These small fish eat the mosquito larvae that females lay in standing water. Plus, they eat algae and other bug larvae that may get birthed in your backyard.
Goldfish and fathead minnows also eat mosquito larvae. If you have a pond in your yard, stock them with these species to keep it clean.
3. Install fans over decorative repellents
When hosting a backyard party, tiki torches or mosquito-repellent candles might sound like a great way to add ambiance and keep mosquitoes at bay. However, the effectiveness of these decorative mosquito repellents is debatable. While citronella does repel mosquitoes, it does so at a much lower rate, and for less time, than other repellents.
Instead, focus on air circulation by installing fans outside. Mosquitoes are light, and a breeze will knock them off course. Plus, the wind can move body odors around, helping you avoid detection by the mosquitoes in the first place.
4. Make a DIY mosquito trap
You can make your own mosquito trap with a few simple ingredients. All you’ll need is an empty two-liter bottle, scissors, a packet of yeast, some brown sugar, a measuring cup of warm water and some tape. Then, follow these steps:
- Cut the two-liter bottle in half.
- Combine the cup of warm water, a few spoonfuls of brown sugar and the packet of yeast, and pour into the bottom half of the bottle.
- Take the top half of the bottle and stick it upside-down into the bottom half, so that it forms a funnel into your sugar/yeast/water mixture.
- Tape the two halves of the bottle together, and you’ve got a trap.
Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, which the yeast produces as it consumes the sugar. Once they fly into the funnel, they won’t be able to find the small exit. Be sure and change this trap every week or so, as the yeast will eat up all the sugar and stop producing carbon dioxide.
Place as many of these as you think are needed around your patio or backyard. You can even use some inside your house if you’ve noticed a couple mosquitos flying around.
5. Apply bug repellent
If the above steps don’t stop you from getting bit, treat your skin in addition to your yard:
- DEET-based repellents: Of all the repellents on the market, DEET is the most rigorously tested for human use and the most widely used in typical mosquito repellents. Studies suggest that it keeps mosquitoes away far better than the alternatives.
- Essential oils: The oils of turmeric, palmarosa or kaffir lime applied to the skin can provide protection from mosquitoes for up to 8 hours. Turmeric has a spicy bitter smell, while the scents of palmarosa and kaffir lime are more floral and light. Adding some vanilla extract should help this natural repellent last longer. These can be found at most natural grocery stores, and will likely be more expensive than DEET-based repellents.