What Keeps Mosquitoes Away? 12 Ways to Safeguard Your Home and Yard
Don't let mosquito bites ruin your fun. Learn how to keep mosquitoes away by making your property an uninviting place for these disease-carrying pests.
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What keeps mosquitoes away?
It’s not your imagination: Summers have been getting hotter and more humid in recent years. Aside from making you feel sticky and uncomfortable, these warmer, wetter environments caused by climate change are allowing mosquitoes to thrive. In fact, experts predict that nearly half a billion more people will be at risk of mosquito-borne diseases over the next three decades. Mosquitoes can carry diseases like malaria, Zika and dengue, but they are also just annoying to have around, leading many people to wonder how long mosquitoes live and, more important, how to keep mosquitoes away.
With natural remedies, the best mosquito repellents, regular upkeep on your yard and even landscaping with mosquito-repellent plants, you can deter mosquitoes from your home and yard. Here’s how to do it quickly and easily.
Eliminate sources of standing water
Mosquitoes lay their eggs near standing water, and the larvae need only about an ounce to survive off for about two weeks as they grow to adulthood. “If there is no water, there will be no mosquitoes breeding in the area,” Daniel Markowski, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, tells Reader’s Digest. “Essentially, all standing water should be eliminated. Dispose of all useless containers, and those that are saved should be turned upside down.” Also make sure to get rid of old, discarded tires. When they are left out and collect rainwater, they can breed thousands of mosquitoes, says Markowski. This just may be the easiest chemical-free way to get rid of pests.
Some standing water sources, like birdbaths or kiddie pools, can’t just be tossed out. Instead, aim to refresh the water in them at least once per week. After dumping the water, scrub these items to clean them before adding new water. It’s also a good idea to cover small pools and birdbaths when they aren’t in use to discourage mosquitoes from breeding.
Install a fish pond
If you’re wondering how to keep mosquitoes away from your yard, consider getting some new family pets: fish. Markowski recommends filling ornamental ponds on your property with fish, which will feed on mosquitoes for a natural form of pest control. Bonus: They’ll turn your backyard into an oasis.
One popular species is the Gambusia affinis, nicknamed the mosquito fish. Just be aware that this is an incredibly invasive species, so only purchase these fish if you live in an area they’re native to. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, that’s Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from southern New Jersey to Mexico, as well as the Mississippi River basin from central Indiana and Illinois to the Gulf.
Other great fish candidates that will eat mosquitoes include catfish, bluegill, koi fish and even goldfish.
Add window screens
No one wants mosquitoes biting them while they sleep … but if you keep your windows open at night, you’re basically inviting bugs to come on in and nibble on you. When it comes to how to keep mosquitoes away from the inside of your house, make sure you have properly fitting screens in your windows. That way, you get all the breeze and none of the bites.
Old screens with rips or tears should be replaced with new screens that mosquitoes can’t fly through. You can also find repair kits to patch any openings in your existing screens. Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the edges of the screen where it meets the window frame, since mosquitoes can be as small as one-tenth of an inch long. Mosquito-repellent clothing can also help you stay bite-free.
Use specific scents
There are some scents that mosquitoes tend to hate, just as there are smells that attract mosquitoes. Your favorite perfume or scented body lotion is a favorite for these bugs, and they especially enjoy scents that resemble flowers. If you plan to spend an afternoon outside, opt for fragrance-free body wash, and skip your usual body sprays and scented lotions.
“Mosquitoes rely quite heavily on olfactory cues to determine which hosts to feed on and which to ignore,” Markowski explains. “That’s the basis of many repellents on the market.”
To repel mosquitoes, Markowski recommends plant-based oil scents like citronella, lavender or peppermint. If you use essential oils, though, make sure they are used in places that are inaccessible to pets. Many essential oils can be toxic to your furry friends, even if your pets don’t come in direct contact with them or ingest them. Diffused scents in the air can also be problematic.
Landscape with mosquito-repelling plants
Adding plants that naturally deter mosquitoes can help reduce the number of these pests flying around the yard, especially when you use them with other effective control methods like eliminating standing water. If you want to know how to keep mosquitoes away, try planting marigolds, lavender and lantana around your yard. Bonus: These flowers will add color to your garden and also attract pollinators likes bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Other plants that may help repel mosquitoes include citronella plants, lemongrass, catnip, some types of mint and other common herbs such as basil, thyme and rosemary. While you’re updating your yard, you may also want to consider these other pest-repelling plants.
Consider a mosquito bracelet
Some people swear by mosquito bracelets as a method for how to keep mosquitoes away. These bracelets have repellents, like chemicals or essential oils, to deter mosquitoes. While they may not be as effective as an all-over bug spray, they can help keep these bugs from biting up your arms.
“Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others; hence, they may need a stronger repellent,” Markowski explains. “Also, I think if it’s a windy day, that tends to blow away the vaporized repellent emanating from a bracelet device. So, it would be tough to say they’re always going to work. Not to mention, if there are a lot of mosquitoes present, you’ll probably need a stronger repellent.”
Set up fans for outdoor gatherings
If you’re planning to have friends over for dinner and are worried about mosquitoes ruining the fun, check out the best cooling fans for outdoor and indoor settings. Choose powerful outdoor fans for the patio, and set up large, stationary fans throughout the inside of your home if you’ve spotted a mosquito or two that strayed indoors.
Mosquitoes tend to be weak flyers, and the strong breeze from a fan can keep them from landing on you (though you’ll need a pretty strong fan speed for it to be truly effective, notes Markowski). Plus, the fan can disperse some of the human scents, throwing a pesky mosquito off its trail toward biting you. If you do get bit, try out the Bug Bite Thing for some relief!
Hang sticky bug traps indoors
If you get an itchy mosquito bite after a day spent indoors, you may have stray mosquitoes that made it into your home. Markowski recommends using sticky traps designed for flies, which can also catch mosquitoes that are flying around. The fly traps don’t repel these pests or attract them with any certain scent, but they can catch them as they fly in from an open door or window before they make your house their home. Also dealing with eight-legged creepy crawlies? Here’s how to get rid of spiders for good.
Light tiki torches
Aside from livening up your backyard barbecues and pool parties, tiki torches can also keep mosquitoes away from your property. They’re especially helpful when infused with citronella, since they’ll emit both a smell and smoke to deter mosquitoes.
Before you set up the tiki torches, though, keep in mind that the smoke only works at repelling mosquitoes in the immediate area of each tiki torch. You may need several torches, even for a small area, to keep these pests away. “They’re most effective within several feet of the torch or repellent diffuser itself,” says Markowski. “So you’d need quite a few to truly affect the mosquito activity in your yard.”
Spray commercial mosquito repellents
Many commercial repellents contain chemicals and plant-based oils that you can spray on your body or around your yard to encourage mosquitoes to go elsewhere. Look for repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of eucalyptus or IR3535, also known as ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate (EBAAP). While some people have reported concerns about chemicals like DEET, the CDC says that DEET products have little risk to human or environmental health.
If you’re concerned about chemicals in some popular repellents, consider brands like Murphy’s Naturals, which offers natural, plant-based repellents in the form of sprays, balms and even candles and incense sticks infused with citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint and lemongrass.
Clear out gutters
The mosquito pros know that any buildup of debris, like piles of leaves, can become an attractive habitat for pests, including mosquitoes. To keep pests away, don’t skip this important chore. When the gutters are clogged up with leaves, the rainfall can’t move down and out of the spout. This creates pools of standing water surrounded by rotting leaves, which the mosquitoes may feed on. Gutter scoops are an inexpensive way to take care of the problem yourself.
Cover recycling and trash bins, or make them drainable
If you keep a recycling bin outside, make sure it either has a lid or has draining holes at its base. This way, unexpected rain showers won’t fill your bin with standing water where mosquitoes can breed. The same goes for trash bins or any other open containers that are around your yard. It’s an easy solution to a pesky problem.
- University of Florida News: “Climate change will expose more people to risk of mosquito-borne disease”
- The Lancet: “Projecting the risk of mosquito-borne diseases in a warmer and more populated world: a multi-model, multi-scenario intercomparison modelling study”
- CDC: “Control Mosquitoes Outside Your Home”
- Daniel Markowski, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association
- USGS: “Gambusia affinis”
- Orkin: “How Big Can Mosquitoes Get?”
- Michelson Found Animals: “Which Essential Oils Are Toxic to Pets?”
- CDC: “DEET”