Mosquito conrol tips for a healthy summer
Drain mosquitoes away
Standing water in your backyard—decorative fountains, fish ponds, even a dribble of water on the lids of your garbage cans—can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To keep the mosquito population from exploding, check your yard for places water can collect. Low spots in lawns and holes in trees can trap water, so fill these in. Cover rain barrels with a screening cloth to keep mosquitoes out.
“You need to be fastidious. I’ve seen mosquitoes breed in discarded bottle caps,” says Conlon. It takes mosquitoes five days to go from egg to adult, says Conlon, so you can keep a bird bath as long as you empty it every few days.
Mosquitoes don’t breed in deep or flowing water, so choose circulating fountains and avoid shallow fish ponds less than a foot deep. A larvicide in water features will also reduce mosquitoes.
Dress for success
When getting dressed, choose light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. “Mosquitoes can and will bite through tight clothing,” says Conlon. Studies have shown that some mosquito breeds are attracted to the colors red and blue.
Spray on a mosquito repellent containing DEET, recommends Dr. Joseph Vinetz, professor of medicine and director of travel and tropical medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Because no repellent is foolproof, Vinetz also prescribes antimalarial drugs for travelers headed to Africa, Asia and South America, where there’s a higher risk of contracting malaria, an often fatal illness. The Environmental Protection Agency also recommends the use of repellents containing picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (aka p-menthane 3,8-diol, or PMD) and the biopesticide IR3535. The insecticide permethrin can be sprayed on clothing and shoes for further protection, but it’s highly toxic to cats, so use with caution.
Defend your territory
Spraying your property with insecticides should be your last line of defense, says Conlon, whose organization advocates limiting their use to reduce the possibility of mosquitoes building resistance. “While there are chemicals you can use, most only last a few hours and some involve non-target kills of other insects that help our ecosystem,” he notes. And, contrary to popular belief, he adds, mosquitoes do not breed in grass, so spraying the lawn is overkill.
To defend outdoor space, use fire and fans instead. Citronella candles provide a mild repellent, but it’s actually the smoke that keeps bugs away. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, so outdoor fans blow them away.
As for expensive mosquito traps and zappers, save your money. “We don’t advocate things that haven’t been proven effective, though some folks swear by them. As public health professionals, we don’t want people to think they’re protected when they’re not,” says Conlon