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We spoke to a mosquito and tick expert to find the best hacks for keeping the skeeters at bay.
Yes, summer means warmer weather, longer days, and better vibes all around, but it also means
mosquitoes. With over 3,000 different species of mosquitoes in the world—and about 200 of them living in the U.S. alone—your backyard summer plans can go awry if you have to contend with these tiny bloodsuckers. Mosquitoes are also vectors for disease, with some carrying and transmitting nasty maladies like malaria.
Typically, mosquito activity starts when overnight temperatures begin leveling out and stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Mosquito species have different activity patterns and feeding preferences (some bite birds, others prefer mammals like humans), but they all share the same basic life cycle and habitat preferences. And that’s good news, because it means you can get rid of them in one fell swoop.
To figure out how to kill mosquitos effectively, we reached out to Ross Jundt, a mosquito and tick expert who owns several Mosquito Squad franchises in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Below, we compiled eight of the best mosquito-control tips we learned.
“Really, we’re our own worst enemy. We create mosquito habitats close to our house,” Jundt explains.
If your yard has items you don’t need and that hold water, get rid of them. Old tires are a notorious culprit; they not only retain water, but provide a warm, sheltered environment that’s perfect for mosquito breeding—so throw them out. If you’re using a tire for a swing, drill a hole in the bottom so water can drain freely.
The best time to look is right after a rainstorm, when water collects in small items you might not think of as problematic.
This localized approach to mosquito control is best for smaller areas, like a gazebo or around a hammock. Plus, if you’re the camping type, you could repurpose any extra netting to surround your bed during overnight trips.
All mosquitoes lay eggs in water, and they need precious little of it. Reducing, if not eliminating, standing water is the first step in eradicating the mosquito threat. “We create all sorts of areas for water to collect, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Jundt says.
A 6-inch-diameter plant saucer with only 1/2 inch of water can be enough for mosquitoes to reproduce. “All they need is eight to 10 days for eggs to turn into adult mosquitoes,” Jundt points out. “It doesn’t take long.”
He advises dumping out any items that contain stagnant water—such as plant saucers, dog bowls, and bird baths—on a regular basis. Then, if needed, fill them with fresh water. Replace water in sources like dog bowls and bird baths at least daily; most mosquito eggs hatch within 48 hours (plus, your dog will thank you).
Kid’s toys, buckets, wading pools, and anything else that holds water, but that you don’t want to throw out, should be flipped over when not in use so they don’t fill with rainwater.
If you want something that’s easy to clean up and pack up, consider collapsible water/food bowls.
This low-tech, easy-to-install option is often overlooked—but you should definitely give an oscillating fan a chance. According to The New York Times, mosquitoes are slow, weak fliers, and don’t really have it in them to go against the breeze that fans produce. Not only does this option offer a safe, non-chemical method for repelling mosquitoes, but you can also keep cool. (Just remember to bring non-outdoor fans inside when you’re done.)
Mosquitoes like still or stagnant water, so make sure that any pools are properly chlorinated, and be sure to maintain the filter. Clean filters in fountains and run them frequently, which helps deter mosquitoes from laying eggs there.
For water that accumulates in fish ponds, ditches, or rain barrels, use “mosquito dunks” to kill the larvae. Roughly the diameter of a quarter, a dunk is dropped into standing water and releases a natural larvicide called Bti (a bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis) that kills only mosquito larvae; it won’t harm fish, birds, or other animals. You can buy the dunks at home centers. They cost about $10 for a six-pack, which kill larvae for 30 days in 100 square feet of stagnant water.
Over the course of the winter, your gutters may have filled up with debris, meaning they no longer drain properly. Clean out gutters and downspouts to make sure water doesn’t pool and create a welcome breeding environment for skeeters.
Fix holes in your window and door screens so that any mosquitoes that are around won’t become an inside problem. Finally, pull weeds near foundations, and keep your lawn mowed to a low height to reduce potential mosquito habitats.
If you’re using a tarp to cover a pile of firewood, a speedboat, your grill, or any other large items, make sure it’s pulled tight. Otherwise, rainwater pools in the folds and the low spots. If you can’t pull the tarp taut, remove it altogether so that the water drains (and consider buying a new one).
Most garden supply and hardware stores sell sprays or granules for insect control in the landscape. Use them sparingly, and only if necessary; most feature pyrethrins or their synthetic version, pyrethroids. Pyrethrins are natural insecticides derived from chrysanthemums, but natural does not mean non-toxic, and pyrethrins can irritate skin with direct contact, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.
Pyrethrins also kill a variety of insects: mosquitos and ticks, but also pollinators like honey bees and beneficial insects like ladybugs. If you decide to spray on your own, pick a calm day to reduce drift. If you hire a pro, ask to see a license, and what chemicals they’ll be using.
If you’re outside when mosquitos are active, insect repellant and long sleeves are the best way to avoid getting bitten. You can use repellants like citronella and fans, but they’re not a complete solution.
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At SeeVay, we know that the safety and well-being of your baby is your top priority. That’s why we’re dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to make sure you’re always on top of your baby’s safety. We understand that being a new mom can be overwhelming, and there’s so much information out there that it can be hard to know where to start.