Environmentally Safe Ways to Control Mosquitoes

By Elaine Simmons

With hot, humid weather comes a plague of mosquitos. We can take steps to reduce mosquito populations without harming “good” critters like bees and butterflies.

  1. Eliminate standing water. Unfortunately, mosquito larvae can live in as little as one teaspoon of water. Black, ribbed, flexible downspout extenders hold water and are thus a prime culprit, even if they are sloped downhill. Blocked gutters are also a major problem, as are tarps (like on pools or cars), toys, bird baths, trash and recycling bins, watering cans and wheelbarrows, and pots and saucers. Check and empty these sources every two to three days.
  2. Treat your rain barrel. Rain barrels are great for saving on water, but they are major mosquito breeding grounds. To avoid this, buy mosquito “donuts” or dunks, which last for months, or add ¼ cup of any type of cooking oil to your barrel per week, or secure fine mesh netting to the top with bungee cord.
  3. Avoid mosquito spraying that harms other bugs. Many companies claim that their insecticide treatments for your yard only harm mosquitoes, but critics disagree, saying that chemicals typically used to cause paralysis and death in mosquitoes (pyrethrins or pyrethroids) kill monarch caterpillars (even weeks after spraying), bees, and fireflies. These chemicals can also kill arthropods, such as spiders and centipedes. Losing these critters means reducing a food source for some birds. Finally, critics claim these insecticides are toxic to certain earthworms.
  4. Try natural sprays to repel mosquitoes in your yard. Alternatives to insecticides are products such as Garlic Barrier, with its considerable amount of natural sulfur providing a repellent. According to reviews, Garlic Barrier smells extremely strong for 30-60 minutes but then the smell goes away; the repellent lasts several weeks.
  5. To avoid being bit while outside, cover up and spray yourself with mosquito repellent. The EPA has approved DEET; it’s been around for decades and breaks down quickly, so does not harm the environment. Alternatives to DEET include plant-based products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE).
  6. Finally, use a fan at your outdoor gathering. The fan disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale, so fewer mosquitoes are attracted to you in the first place. Also, mosquitoes are weak fliers and can’t compete with the “wind” from the fan.