Depending on where you live in the United States, mosquitos will either be a usual nuisance this summer or a potential carrier of the Zika virus. Either way, keeping mosquitos at bay is essential to creating a safer summer for you and your family.
We all know the importance of removing any standing water from around the yard. Making it a habit to walk around your property right after rainfall to dump water from flower pot stands, fire pits, bird baths, kid’s toys, and so on, does help. But while many mosquito-repellent strategies exist, most fail once a mosquito gets the whiff of a human nearby (they are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale). And once they find us, few things are likely to deter them. So what are the effective, safe-for-all steps you can take to help make your backyard bug free?
Blow Them Away
The best low-tech solution to keep mosquitos from bugging you is to move an indoor fan outside during the evening. Not only are mosquitos inept fliers, but a 2003 study showed that wind thwarts a mosquito’s landing capabilities. If they can’t land on you, they can’t bite you. Simply point the fan toward your seating areas in the backyard and stay put– at least during dusk.
For a more long-term solution, install a ceiling fan anywhere you like to sit when outdoors: on your porch, over a covered patio, or in a gazebo. Search “outdoor ceiling fans” on Pinterest for inspiration. You can also Google “wall mount outdoor fan” for fans that you can place discreetly yet strategically to help keep mosquitos from making an easy landing on your arm.
Try Yellow Lights
Replace outdoor lighting fixtures with yellow bug lights, or for a few dollars more, with warm-colored LED bulbs. Why LEDs? While a recent study found both types of bulbs were effective at attracting fewer mosquitos and other insects, surprisingly, the warmer colored LEDs were also effective in attracting fewer earwigs and stink bugs — a bonus by any measure. LEDs also last for years making them less expensive in the long term. To shop for the correct, warm-colored LEDs for outdoor lights, however, remember that lumen (lm) matters more than wattage (W), the warmer (yellower) the LED light, to have more brightness at night, LEDs in the 16-20 W range may be the happy medium between seeing well and keeping bugs away. Ask your hardware store expert for advice, though, as other factors, such as dimmer capabilities and bulb-encased light fixtures impact how long an LED bulb lasts.
Remove Their Habitat
It’s your habitat, not theirs, so keep it that way by following these five simple yet effective deterrents:
- Keep your pool covered when not in use
- Trim back any heavy vegetation areas and low-hanging foliage
- Pick up decaying fruit and other yard debris from ground
- Mow your lawn weekly and eliminate any tall weeds
- Clear rain gutters and downspouts
Repel Them with Non-Toxic Sprays and Oils
Toxic chemicals work but that’s hardly healthy for us. The most effective non-toxic repellents that are safe for people and pets include:
- The long-held and still true use of citronella oil (outdoors only folks)
- Conceal Candles, which contain a botanical that inhibits a mosquito’s ability to smell
- Yard sprays made with neem oil
- Liquid garlic sprays (it seems mosquitos and vampires hate garlic)
- Food-grade diatomaceous earth spray (safe for use in koi and ornamental ponds)
No single solution has yet been found to completely protect you and your family from mosquitos, but following these steps can help eliminate opportunities for those little skeeters to make your backyard their home.
A Note on Zika in the U.S.
As June 2016 drew to a close, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had not reported any known locally acquired cases of Zika in any U.S. states — all the reported cases in the U.S. have been travel-associated infections to date. However, the CDC has compiled a map that shows their estimated range in the U.S. for the type of mosquito (Aedes aegypti) that carries the virus. While not a precise mapping of Zika’s potential to spread, if you live in the lower half of the U.S., it can be helpful to take simple precautions, including those outlined in this post.