Mosquito Prevention, Protection, & Control
The Hard Facts: What Works and What Doesn't
There are a wide array of products on the market designed to either repel or kill mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of products simply don't work, or have a negligible impact on preventing mosquito bites and irritations. The good news is there are a number of mosquito control products that do work as well as a number of simple things you can do around your home to reduce the mosquito population. The most important thing to remember is that the most effective mosquito control program will incorporate a number of strategies, including an effective trapping system, a personal repellent, and a common sense approach to reducing mosquito breeding and resting opportunities on your property.
We recommend that a three-pronged approach to home / back-yard mosquito control:
Step 1: Eliminate Mosquito Breeding and Resting Areas on Your Property
Eliminate mosquito breeding and resting areas on your property and encourage your neighbors and nearby property owners to do the same. Eliminate pools of stagnant or standing water by emptying old containers that have collected rain water (old tires too!), eliminating depressions that can fill with water when it rains, ensuring that rain gutters are not clogged, etc. You will be surprised how many breeding grounds there are in the average yard! For larger pools of stagnant water (ponds, etc.), you can try a environmentally-friendly biological larvicide. Keep shrubs and grass well maintained and cut short as these areas can provide good resting areas for mosquitoes during the day. Put goldfish in garden ponds and install a fountain - the goldfish will eat the mosquito larva! You will never be able to control all mosquitoes on your property with these techniques since they will breed and rest on adjacent properties, but they are a cost-free or low-cost approach that will help with your overall mosquito control efforts.
Step 2: Install a Quality Mosquito Trap
We recommend the Lentek Mosquito Trap (MK12). They are reasonably priced and very effective in eliminating biting mosquitoes over an area up to 1 acre and are well suited to capturing mosquitoes migrating into your back yard living space from neighboring properties. See below for more details.
Step 3: Use Repellent Sparingly
Use a quality repellent containing deet to repell any remaining mosquitoes, but use very sparingly and only to clothing (not bare skin) if at all possible. Be extremely cautious using on children! Reduce the amount of exposed skin by wearing light-weight clothes covering your arms and legs. Clothes that blend in with your surroundings will attract less mosquitoes than clothing with a high contrast to your background.
Mosquito Control Product Categories
Repellents come in many forms including chemical sprays, natural lotions, and electronic devices. The most well known repellent is deet (N, N diethyl-m-toluamide). Deet has been studies profusely by the scientific community and there is little doubt that it does work, especially in higher concentrations. It is the most effective and long-lasting repellent that is commercially available. Unfortunately, health concerns have been raised by many researchers since deet is a chemical. These concerns have prompted many to recommend that deet with a concentration of more than 10% should not be applied to children, and that deet should always used sparingly on exposed skin. In a race to develop a natural alternative to deet, many manufacturers have turned to essential plant oils and other substances. Unfortunately, only limited success has been achieved. Those that do offer some mosquito repellence generally have a short effiacy period - in other words, they don't last long. Most are simply ineffective. Citronella is probably one of the best known natural "repellents." Most who have used it will agree that its effectiveness is quite limited. Electronic and ultrasonic devices have also proven largely ineffective.
Insecticides are growing increasingly unpopular due to well-founded concerns over the safety. Many municipalities are now banning their use as a result of new research that suggests many popular insecticides may cause cancer, birth defects, and developmental problems in children. They also kill beneficial insects and may contaminated solis and water supplies for long periods of time. Application of insecticides on your property will also do little to ensure a mosquito bite free yard, as mosquitoes will still migrate to your property from neighboring land in search of their next meal. We do not recommend the use of any insecticides due to the potential health risks to your familty, pets, and wildlife (birds, beneficial insects, fish, etc.).
Many public mosquito control programs have opted to use biological larvicides instead of traditional insecticides. Not only are they effective, but they exclusively target the mosquito larva before they hatch into biting mosquitoes without harming other creatures or leaving a toxic residue. The downside of larvicides is that they again do not prevent migrating mosquitos from reaching your yard after hatching on adjacent properties. Larvicides that can be purchased in tablet or pellet form to be applied to any pools of stagnant or standing water on your property to prevent mosquito breeding.
Traps and Zappers
The same mosquito traping technology used by research scientists is now available for home use. There are a wide variety of traps and zappers available on the market, with equally varying effectiveness. For the most part, zappers are far less effective and result in the killing of too many beneficial insects. Two brands of mosquito traps, the Lentek Mosquito Trap and the Mosquito Magnet, have been independently determined to be very effective in capturing mosquitos. These units use various attractants like CO2, heat, and light to mimic the blood meal of the female mosquito (it's true, only females bite!). As the mosquito is lured to the trap, they are captured by a suction vacuum and killed. Traps are environmentally friendly in that the do not use harsh chemcials (the Mosquito Magnet does emit octenol), and do not kill beneficial insects. The greatest benefit of a mosquito trap, however, is that it will intercept mosquitos as they move from neighboring properties to yours in search of a blood meal. Further, as the trap captures more and more mosquitoes, the breeding population in and around your property will collapse, reducing the number of future mosquitoes in the area. We recommend the Lentek Mosquito Trap as opposed to the Mosquito Magnet since independent tests show it is equally effective, but it costs far less than the Mosquito Magnet.
|Mosquito Traps||Mosquito traps use a variety of attractants that mimic the blood sources required by biting female mosquitos to reproduce to lure mosquitos into a capturing device (usually a vacuum, sicky board, or zapper. Some mosquito traps, including the Lentek Mosquito Trap and Mosquito Magnet have been proven to be very effective at both attracting and trapping mosquitos. These models use the same general technology used by scientists and government researchers to capture mosquitoes for their studies, but in a configuration that is convenient and cost-effective for home use. Unfortunately, there are a wide array of other traps that are less effective, and some completely ineffective.
CLICK HERE for a comparison of mosquito trap brands and their performance.
|Chemical free (safe), does not harm beneficial insects, cost effective, cover large area, and some brands are very effective. The biggest benefit of traps is that they actually serve to reduce the mosquito population around your home, not just temporarily repell mosquitoes which continue to breed and make future control efforts more difficult.||Traps are obviously more expensive that a can of repellent or some of the alternative products, however, because of their effectivness and long life, they are worth the investment (certain models).|
|Bug Zappers||Bug Zappers usually use light and heat to attract insects to a device where they come in contact with an electrical charge that electrocutes them. While they are very effective at killing insects, they are only slightly effective at killing mosquitoes.||They do kill bugs - chemical free.||Limited effectiveness, can potentially pose a safety hazard around children and pets, kill more beneficial insects than mosquitoes, require a lot of maintenance.|
(N, N diethyl-m-toluamide)
|Deet has been scientifically proven to provide the best personal protection from mosquito bites. Deet is available in variety of concentrations ranging from as little as one or two percent to 100%, and is applied directly to your clothing or skin. There is a great deal of concern however, about the effect of Deet on human health, specifically on children. It is generally recommended that children use a concentration of no greater than 10%. It is also recommended to try to avoid the use of Deet, or products containing Deet, directly on your skin as it is a toxic chemical. Rather, it should be applied to your clothing.||Proven to be the most effective personal use product/repellent for the prevention of mosquito bites, low cost.||Human health concerns, does not reduce breeding population (temporary relief), must apply every day you use your outdoor living space (or even several times per day)|
|Permethrin||Permethrin is a powerful, odourless insecticide that is available in either an aerosol or concentrated format. It is derived from the crushed and dried flowers of the daisy Chrysanthemum. Permethrin does not repel mosquitoes, but works as a contact insecticide causing nervous system toxicity, leading to death or knockdown of the mosquito. Permethrin is applied to clothing, tents equipment etc., but not to skin.||Resitant to degradation by heat or sun. Maintains it's potency for up to two weeks.||Low level toxicity, effectiveness?|
|Natural and Plant-Derived Repellents and Products
|Thousands of plants have been tested as potential sources of insect repellents. None of the plant-derived chemicals tested to date demonstrate the broad effectiveness and duration of DEET, but a few show some repellent activity. Plants whose essential oils have been reported to have some repellent activity include citronella, cedar, verbena, pennyroyal, geranium, lavender, pine, cajeput, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, and peppermint. Unlike synthetic insect repellents, plant-derived repellents have been relatively poorly studied. When tested, most of these essential oils tended to provide only limited and short-lasting protection, usually less than 2 hours (some only minutes). Natural products are included in lotions and sprays, and also in candles and other devices. Various mosquito repelling plants have been touted as worthy additions to your garden - save your money, their effectiveness is limited. Certain products in this category also require the burning of a candle or other item - this could pose a health hazard, so use caution. By wary of products manufactured by companies you don't know and trust.||No chemicals or pesticides||Very limited effectiveness|
|Mosquito Band Blocking Devices||These bands, or bracelets are worn around the wrist, and release an odor that is reported to confuse mosquitos and make it hard for them to identify you as a target. Mosquitoes will still be present, but bites may be reduced slightly.||Inexpensive and easy to wear.||Effectiveness is very limited.|
|Ultrasonic & Electronic Devices||Small ultrasonic electronic devices are meant to be carried on the body and purportedly emit sounds that repel mosquitoes. Some report to mimic the frequency of the wing-beat of a dragonfly (the mosquito's main predator). Many studies conducted in the field and laboratory show that these devices simply do not work or have very limited effectiveness.||Inexpensive and unobtrusive||Effectiveness questionable|
|Bats||Bats are well known mosquito eaters! A single bat can eat hundreds of mosquitos every hour, however, research suggests that only about 10 to 15% of the average bat's diet is mosquitoes. You can encourage bats to visit your yard by building a simple bat house. Plans can be readily found on the Internet - there is no need to pay the extra money to buy a kit. Bats are a great natural way to reduce mosquitoes around your home, just don't expect they to have a very big impact. They may very well choose to have dinner in your neighbors yard, not yours, since they can fly long distances from their roosting areas.||They definitely eat mosquitos!||Limited effectivness for home mosquito control|
|Chemical Insecticides||There are a wide variety of chemical insecticides that can be used for mosquito control. Unfortunately, as is often the case with chemical formulations, we only learn of their toxic effects on humans and pets long after they have been used. Most frequently, insecticides are sprayed on mosquito resting areas such as shrubs and tall grass.||Effectively kills mosquitos, but a high cost (see disadvantages)||Most have high to extreme health hazard, requires applicator training for "safe" use, kills beneficial insects, may cause short and/or long-term ground or well water contamination. The effectivness of insecticides can be hampered by weather conditions (rain, for example) and they are of little or no benefit when the mosquito resting areas are ourside of your property (Mosquito traps still intercept these mosquitoes before they reach you).|
|Biological Larvicides||These usually come in a bisque tablet or pellet form and can be added to areas of standing water on your property (a pond, for instance) to kill the mosquito lava. They usually use a bacterial agent that only attacks mosquito larva, so they are generally regarded as relatively environmentally safe. Because larvicides only target mosquito hatching on your property, mosquitoes that are hatching on adjacent properties could still enter your yard looking for their next blood meal. For this reason, larvicides are not generally considered a viable overall control solution.||Quite effective and environmentally safe in some circumstances.||Not effective at intercepting mosquitoes migrating to your property from neighboring land to feed.|