How to Stop Mosquitoes From Multiplying | Reviews by Wirecutter – The New York Times

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Uninvited guests can ruin any gathering, but mosquitoes may be the worst party crashers of all. Feeling forced to take your warm-weather, al fresco festivities inside because of bugs is a summer bummer. However, it’s also a problem that comes with many potential remedies. The first one is to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding grounds—standing water—from your outdoor space.
Mosquitoes need just a few ounces of water for their eggs to hatch, which takes anywhere from four days to seven days as the eggs mature and insects emerge, Dan Markowski, PhD, technical advisor at the American Mosquito Control Association, told me in an email interview. “A cup, maybe half a cup, could easily be enough water for mosquitoes to successfully lay their eggs,” he said.
That’s why even though spatial and topical repellents should be a part of your bug-bite defense plan, a “dump and drain” strategy to rid your property of potential skeeter breeding spots pays big dividends.
“Preventing mosquitoes from breeding is the best way to ensure you don’t get bitten, mostly because it’s a numbers game,” Markowski said. Contending with a few mosquitoes is much better than contending with lots of mosquitoes, in other words, and letting them multiply unabated in and around your property means you’re much more likely to have to deal with the latter. Here’s how to make your outdoor space less hospitable to mosquitoes and their eggs, whether you’ve got an expansive yard, a cozy balcony, or anything in between.
Most female mosquitoes “take a bloodmeal approximately once per week,” said Markowski, so keeping to your own weekly schedule of dumping and draining should help you keep ahead of the mosquito life cycle. “Getting rid of standing water is the easiest, most actionable thing people can do,” adds senior staff writer Doug Mahoney, our expert on all things buggy.
Where should you look for standing water that may become a larval hotspot? It’s often in the stuff you have lying around your yard rather than natural breeding grounds, according to an AMCA report, including:
“If you seriously address all these random little nooks and crannies where they live, it adds up to pretty constant vigilance at home,” says senior editor Harry Sawyers. (To cut down on your weekly water patrol, try storing outdoor items like wheelbarrows, canoes and kayaks, or kids’ outdoor toys in an upside-down position to reduce the potential places where water might pool.)
Whatever water you find, by the way, can just be dumped onto the ground, or you can use it to water plants. “Any larvae will die once the water is absorbed into the dirt,” Markowski explained.
Even if the only outdoor space you’re working with is a paved patio or an apartment balcony, dumping water weekly is still going to be your best preventive measure. “I have seen mosquitoes breeding 30 stories up,” Markowski told me. “It doesn’t make any sense that they’d be that high, but they can be.” Common mosquito breeding spots in such spaces, he noted, are the base trays of flower pots—which Harry ominously describes as “another seemingly innocuous petri dish of death to deal with.”
Some species, like Aedes albopictus (also known as the Asian tiger mosquito) and Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito), have a flight range of a few hundred feet and are likely to try to breed in those manufactured items mentioned above and near houses or other residential buildings. In contrast, other species travel several miles a day. Some species lay their eggs directly on standing water, while others, such as Aedes vexans and other kinds of floodwater mosquitoes, lay eggs on the soil in low-lying spots that tend to hold water after a storm, relying on rains or tides to later come and flood the area so the egg maturation process can begin. (Un-fun fact: Those eggs can hang around for months or even years until water arrives, then hatch days later.)
So knowing which species are prevalent where you live is “extremely helpful and the key to properly controlling them,” Markowski said. “Most of the time, I suggest calling the local mosquito control district to see what the most common species are in your area. They can also, very often, come to your home and inspect it and let you know the full nature of your problem and how to best remedy it.”
Of course, you likely have many kinds of mosquitoes buzzing around, which means you might want to consider several mosquito-reduction techniques. For this article, I perused the public works website for the New Jersey county where I live, which stated that “over 20 species of mosquitoes have been found” in my area and that most of them “deposit eggs on moist surfaces such as mud or fallen leaves.” That means they’re likely floodwater mosquitoes, which I wouldn’t have guessed, since I don’t live in what’s considered to be a coastal or marshy locale. (Having said that, I know there are also Asian tiger mosquitoes where I live, since I’ve seen them with their telltale stripes coming in for a landing on my arm.)
A long-lasting way to create more drainage on your property is to drill a few holes in the bottom of garbage cans and recycling containers, said Markowski, so “if any water does collect in them, it just drains right out.” Doug says that, with the right drill bits, any of the tools we recommend in our guide to the best drills will work well (whether your containers are metal or plastic). Of course, keeping cans covered is an even easier preventive step, and while you’re at it, any rain barrels you have should be fitted with a lid or screen on top.
The DeWalt is the most comfortable drill we’ve ever held, and it’s loaded with convenient features. It has enough strength and stamina to easily handle common home jobs.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $149.
With an abundance of the essentials, a lot of useful extras, and a durable case, this is the best all-purpose set (even if its bits are no better than those in other sets we’ve tried).
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Birdbaths, ornamental ponds, and other water elements that you don’t want to disturb can easily be treated with larvicidal products like Summit’s Mosquito Bits, which we recommend in our guide to the best mosquito control gear for your patio or yard. Doug also likes Summit’s Mosquito Dunk Chunks, which are more chunk-sized than bit-sized, and Terro’s Mosquito Larvacide Pouches, which are bags of pellets that dissolve completely in water. Don’t worry about poisoning pond fish or other wildlife; as Doug explains, “the insecticide in them only activates at the specific pH found in a mosquito’s gut.” And swimming pools aren’t something to worry about as long as the water in them is properly maintained.
A bit of annual gutter maintenance should greatly help to “get rid of any debris and fix any issues that would result in puddles forming in your gutter,” said Markowski. Once a year, after a rainfall (ideally in spring, before mosquito season gets underway), carefully and safely get up on a ladder and take a look at your gutters for places where leaves or water are being retained. If you have a one-story house, Doug says a stepladder should be tall enough for the job; just make sure that “it’s on level ground and that you’re not standing on the top step.” For taller homes, “a Werner or Louisville extension ladder would be a great choice,” he suggests, but keep in mind that “a gutter can be crushed if you lean the ladder right against it, so you might need a stabilizer, like the Werner AC78.”
Once you’re up there, look for sags in the gutters, which you can fix by simply “adjusting the hangers and putting the proper pitch back on the gutters,” Doug says. If you’re finding constant clogs caused by leaves or pine needles, things get a little trickier. “Some people have success with products like LeafGuard, which prohibit leaves from getting into the gutter, but overall, I’ve heard mixed reviews,” he notes. “Taking down the offending trees is an option, but if that’s not on the table, it might just mean signing yourself up for frequent gutter cleanings. If this is the case, tools like the Guttermaster (a telescoping hose extension) might be something to think about.”
If you believe you’re dealing with floodwater mosquitoes, any dips, ditches, or depressions in your landscaping that tend to stay boggy after a rainfall could become a breeding ground. How to amend such hills and holes “depends on where the low-lying areas are and if you’re up for doing the work yourself,” Doug says. In New Hampshire, where he lives, he’d use a topsoil mix; in other regions, gravel or other mixes might make more sense, and any kind of major work might be a job for a pro. “If your property has a lot of these water-collecting depressions, it might be an opportunity to talk to a landscaper about a more comprehensive grading plan,” he explains.
Yes, you will almost definitely still see some mosquitoes even after doing all of the above. One reason why: Your neighbors probably haven’t read this article—although you’re welcome to send it to them—so mosquitoes may have suitable accommodations right next door.
Thermacell’s spatial repellent devices—which emit vaporized metofluthrin, a liquid chemical that’s been deemed safe for humans and effective at keeping mosquitoes away—are something we’ve recommended time and again to prevent bites as much as possible. You might even consider purchasing several to form a ring of protection around your outdoor space, as Wirecutter staffers have done.
When used correctly, the Thermacell is also safe to use around pets; the Environmental Protection Agency found metofluthrin (PDF) “is practically non-toxic to mammals and birds” even though it is “highly to very highly toxic to aquatic animals and insects.” As Doug wrote in our guide, Thermacell told us that “the amount of metofluthrin dispersed is so low that it really only affects fragile-bodied mosquitoes, which are structurally weak compared with more robust insects, like honeybees or even other biting insects like horse flies.
With a rechargeable battery, long-lasting repellent supply, and simple interface, the E90 is easier to use than other spatial mosquito repellents.
And old-fashioned, spray-on bug repellent should also greatly reduce your bite count. We like ones that contain at least 20% of the active ingredient picaridin because it doesn’t smell as strong as DEET, and it won’t damage plastics—but either one will work. For your clothing, a permethrin spray will do the trick (just note that it’s toxic to cats when wet, so keep it away from them while the items you’ve sprayed are drying). We have a variety of options in our guide to the best bug repellents.
This EPA-approved picaridin formula is safe and effective, and it comes in a bottle that’s better than competitors’ bottles at spraying evenly and accurately.
May be out of stock
For clothing and gear (but not skin), Sawyer Products’s permethrin repellent is as effective as similar formulas at repelling ticks and mosquitoes, and its trigger spray is easier to control.
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte.
Rose Maura Lorre
Rose Maura Lorre is a senior staff writer on the discovery team at Wirecutter. Her byline has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, Salon, Business Insider, HGTV Magazine, and many more. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, and lots and lots of houseplants.
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Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).
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