Insecticides are a quick, powerful way to get rid of mosquitoes around the yard, but, unfortunately, they are only temporary. The effect usually lasts only as long as the insecticide is present, so as soon as it drifts away or dries out, the mosquitoes are back.
Mosquito control officials use insecticides only when mosquitoes are especially thick and only in combination with other form of mosquito control. The same should apply to use around the house. By itself, insecticide is not a long-term solution.
Insecticides are commonly dispensed through a fog or ultra-low volume mist. They are available at most home and garden stores and come in hand-held applicators or devices that can be attached to a lawn mower.
Two popular insecticides are:
- Malathion – an organophosphate often used to treat crops against a wide array of insects. It can be sprayed directly onto vegetation, such as the bushes where mosquitoes like to rest, or used in a 5 percent solution to fog the yard. In the small amounts used for mosquito control, it poses no threat to humans or wildlife. In fact, malathion is also used to kill head lice.
- Permethrin – one of a group of chemicals called pyrethroids, it is a synthetic form of a natural insecticide found in chrysanthemum flowers. It usually is mixed with oil or water and applied as a mist, about 1/100th of a pound per acre. Like malathion, permethrin kills mosquitoes by disrupting their central nervous systems. Not harmful to people and animals in small amounts, but it is toxic to fish and bees.
Both malathion and permethrin are also available in sprays for use inside the home.
The insecticides will work for several days when applied to shrubbery or grass, but will break down over time, especially in rain. When released into the air through fog or mist, they usually are good only for a few hours before they become too dissipated to be effective.
Over time and repeated use, insecticide resistance can occur in mosquito populations. Scientists researching the subject believe the ability of mosquitoes to resist insecticides represents a serious threat to the prevention of diseases such as malaria, dengue and Chikungunya and will threaten efforts to prevent epidemics.
This is hands down the best way to kill mosquito larvae – it’s effective, it’s fast and it’s convenient.
These donut-shaped “dunks” are basically bacteria – specifically Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) – that are toxic only to mosquito larvae. Bti, the active ingredient, is registered with the EPA and there are no other toxins in the product.
This means that it’s non-toxic to pets and wildlife like frogs, fish, and other animals so you can rest easy on that front.
It’s also long-lasting – not only do these dunks kill mosquito larvae within a few hours, but it also lasts for 30 days or more, protecting against further larvae infestations. And it’s cost-effective, since a single dunk will treat around 100 square feet of surface water.
This is the only thing you’ll need to get rid of any current mosquito larvae and protect your home from future infestations.
How to do it: Drop a dunk into a mosquito-larvae infested area. Finis.
Get Mosquito Dunks here!
Mosquito bits are pretty much the same as mosquito dunks – they contain the bti bacteria that’s toxic to mosquito larvae and non-toxic to other wildlife.
The difference is that they’re in little pellet form, which makes them perfect to use in smaller areas of standing water where you don’t need an entire Mosquito Dunk as well as swampy and perpetually muddy areas that Dunks would have a hard time spreading out in.
Choose the Dunks for pools of water and the Bits for non-draining puddles.
How to do it: Sprinkle one teaspoon of Bits for every 25 square feet of standing water.
These need to be applied uniformly over the surface area to kill all the mosquito larvae.
Get Mosquito Bits here!
Kill Mosquito Larvae with Bleach
The very same chlorine bleach you use to whiten your laundry and sanitize your tools can also triple as a pesticide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Just make sure you get bleaches with at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite as their active ingredients. Clorox works.
Note: Keep in mind that bleach will kill mosquito larvae, bacteria and fungi but it’s harmful for pets and wildlife – never add bleach to a natural pond or stream and be careful you don’t add bleach to standing water that your pets, birds or other wildlife might drink from.
Overall, bleach is best used in pools and gutters but again, it is toxic and can harm any wildlife that drinks from the water. If you have animals on your property, you might want to choose a safer, less toxic alternative to killing mosquito larvae.
How to do it: If you can empty the item of water, do so and spray it with a 1-to-1 solution of bleach and water around once a week to make it an inhospitable place for mosquitoes to breed.
If you have regular standing water, you only need a small amount of bleach – around 1 tablespoon for every 1 gallons of standing water.
It tastes delicious sprinkled atop your coffee and desserts and it offers a natural yet powerful way to kill mosquito larvae. Can you guess what it is?
Yup, we’re talking about cinnamon. Turns out it’s an all-natural, environmentally-friendly way to kill mosquito larvae. And it comes with the additional benefit of smelling yummy.
Of course, you’re not going to sprinkle cinnamon powder into standing water and stir it about – you want to get the more potent cinnamon oil to do the job.
How to do it: Add in a ratio of 15% cinnamon oil to 85% standing water to quickly eliminate mosquito larvae.
You can also use cinnamon oil in your body lotion for anti-mosquito benefits. Just make sure you don’t overdo it – stick to 1 part cinnamon oil to 20 parts lotion.
Get cinnamon leaf oil here!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Not only is apple cider vinegar fantastic a natural way to sanitize your household surfaces – it’s a pretty good way to kill mosquito larvae.
And of course, it’s natural and non-toxic so you can rest easy about wildlife potentially drinking from vinegar-treated water.
The only downside to this solution is that it’s not super potent – a study found that a solution of 15% vinegar to 85% water took 18 hours to kill mosquito larvae, which smaller concentrations (5% vinegar to 95% water) was ineffective.
Compare this to a solution of 15% cinnamon to 85% water – which killed mosquito larvae in only 6 hours.
But if it’s all you got laying around right now, it’ll still get the job done!
How to do it: Use apple cider vinegar at a ratio of 15% vinegar to 85% standing water.
Tips on Preventing Mosquito Larvae:
- After it rains, dump standing water out of all water-accumulating items. Spray them with a bleach or cinnamon oil mix.
- Sprinkle perpetually muddy areas and non-draining puddles with Mosquito Bits. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as an inch of standing water.
- Clear your gutters of leaves and debris as this can clog and create the perfect breed ground for mosquitoes.
- Mosquito Bits and Dunks work great for ponds and won’t harm the wildlife there, but if you’re still concerned – get some goldfish to add to the pond. They’ll have a blast feeding on mosquito larvae.
Tip 1: Prune hedges and mow the yard to reduce shade
Reduce shady cover
Mosquitoes like shade to escape the midday heat.
Hedges, bushes and tall grass provide shade that shelters mosquitoes. They need a place to get out of the heat and sun during the day, so the fewer shaded areas they find, the less they’ll congregate in your yard.
Keep the hedges and bushes trimmed, and mow the yard at least once a week. Mow or till weedy spots to minimize shade and to keep these marginal areas from becoming overgrown jungles. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Otherwise, you’ll just drive the mosquitoes next door—and they’ll come back often to visit.
Tip 2: Eliminate standing water
Thimbleful of water
Mosquitoes can lay eggs in tiny amounts of water.
It’s no surprise that mosquitoes are attracted to water, but it is surprising how little water it takes for mosquitoes to breed and multiply. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in just a thimbleful of water, which means that anything that holds even a tiny bit of water can be home to mosquito larvae.
Find and empty these water sources. Dispose of or drain water from old tires, buckets, unused kids’ pools, bases of flowerpots, furniture, toys, boats and trailers left outside. Keep the gutters clean so water can’t accumulate. Fill tree and stump holes with mortar. Slope ditches so they drain, and fill swampy areas with soil.
Tip 3: Treat pools of water
Chemically treat small pools
Treat pools of water you can’t drain to kill mosquito larvae.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get rid of standing water. And sometimes, like when you have a small pond, you just don’t want to.
Pour a tiny amount of Agnique MMF mosquito larvicide in the water so that a thin layer covers the surface. It’ll suffocate the larvae (and any other insects in the water) without harming fish. (Buy it online at myadapco.com.) Or put Mosquito Dunk into the water. These doughnut-shaped briquettes produce a toxic bacterial spore that kills mosquito larvae, but won’t harm fish or animals. One briquette lasts for 30 days. Large bodies of water may require more briquettes. The Mosquito Dunk doesn’t repel mosquitoes; it prevents breeding. Find it at home centers in six-pack quantities. It’s also available at lowes.com and other sites.
Contrary to popular opinion, these often-tried remedies won’t ward off mosquitoes:
- Citronella candles are no more effective than other candles at keeping mosquitoes away. Candle smoke in general may have a limited effect. Likewise, planting Citrosa geraniums won’t repel mosquitoes.
- Outdoor foggers and misting systems will temporarily reduce mosquito numbers, but they rise again as soon as the system turns off and the spray dissipates.
- Spraying garlic will make your yard smell like an Italian dinner but does little else.
- Bug zappers attract and kill thousands of insects, but most of them aren’t mosquitoes. They kill only a small number of mosquitoes in the area. (Ironically, they zap a lot of insects that prey on mosquitoes.)
- Placing propane gas traps in your yard will effectively capture many mosquitoes, but again, only a small fraction of those in your yard.
- Ultrasonic devices have no repellency value at all, according to studies.
- Building bat towers and purple martin houses to attract potential mosquito predators has been proven useless. Bats and purple martins rarely feed on mosquitoes.
Tip 4: Stock water gardens with fish and chlorinate swimming pools
The fish solution
Goldfish or minnows will eat mosquito larvae in pools.
When water is part of your landscaping or used for recreation, you don’t want to drain it. But that doesn’t mean you have to surrender it to mosquitoes. Buy a few goldfish or minnows from a pet store or bait store and add them to your water garden. They may only live for one season, but they’ll eat mosquito larvae.
Chlorinate water that remains standing for a long period, like water in swimming pools, saunas and hot tubs. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the safe use of chlorine. Keep pools covered when not in use. For small fountains, birdbaths and wading pools that you don’t want to chlorinate, simply change the water once a week to dispose of mosquito larvae. Sweep surfaces with a brush to knock off eggs before refilling the container.
Tip 5: Contact your local Mosquito Control District for large infestations
Mosquito control officials
Call your local mosquito control officials for advice and help with big infestations.
Large wooded areas, ponds and lakes are havens for mosquitoes. It’s almost impossible to treat these areas yourself, so call in the big guns—your local Mosquito Control District. Local policies vary and services are localized, but often, when the number of mosquitoes reaches a certain level, Mosquito Control will spray for them. This is also a good idea if mosquitoes are swarming your yard in unusually high numbers.
Make the call about two weeks before your party. It’ll take time for Mosquito Control to come out, conduct the test, and if needed, spray. Keep in mind that specific criteria must be met before Mosquito Control will spray private property. Your mosquito problem may not meet the threshold, but it’s worth a call.
Tip 6: Have your foliage professionally sprayed
Professional exterminators will treat your yard with insecticide.
If Mosquito Control won’t spray your property, hire an exterminator to spray the foliage. This ensures a swat-free party by wiping out mosquitoes and other insects for at least a few days. Have this done one to three days before your party. Expect to pay $135 for a yard of less than half an acre and $225 for a yard up to an acre. For a (nearly) mosquito-free summer, have the foliage sprayed monthly (about $350 for the summer for a small yard).
Although you can buy sprays yourself, we recommend leaving the application of insecticides to the pros. They can buy more effective treatments that are restricted to licensed exterminators. They also know which to use and how much to apply to kill the mosquitoes without posing a hazard to other critters. When used according to the label, the insecticides pose minimal risk to humans and pets.
Tip 7: Run fans at ground level during the party
Rapid air movement confuses the mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to body odors and the carbon dioxide we exhale when breathing. They allow mosquitoes to home in on us—and that’s when the biting starts. Dissipating these telltale human signs makes us harder to find. So, right before the guests arrive for your party, set fans on the ground and turn them on to break up the scent patterns. This simple solution is surprisingly effective for spur-of-the-moment events, when you can’t use the measures listed above.
Because of their light weight, mosquitoes are weak flyers. The breeze from the fans makes it difficult for them to fly, keeping them out of your party zone.
Despite your best efforts, a few mosquitoes will probably crash your party. Follow these steps to keep them from harassing you:
- Replace outside bulbs with yellow “bug” bulbs, which attract fewer mosquitoes than traditional lights. Find them at home centers ($2.50 for two 60-watt bulbs).
- Apply a light coat of an insect repellent containing DEET on your skin.
- Spray an insect repellent that contains permethrin on your clothes (not directly on your skin). Studies have shown that a combination of permethrin on your clothes and DEET on your skin effectively keeps away mosquitoes and other insects. Follow the manufacturer’s directions; overapplying can be dangerous.
- You can outfit the whole family in clothes that have been factory treated with an insect repellent. The repellent lasts for about 25 washings. One source is ExOfficio (exofficio.com). Men’s T-shirts start at about $30.
Garlic is a great remedy as well, since the smell of it works great on mosquitoes, and is good for human’s health. Crush a few cloves of garlic and put them in boiled water, leaving them there for some time. After a while, the mixture will be is ready and you can pour it into a spray bottle and spray around your house, immediately killing insects and mosquitoes.
Finally, there are devices called zappers. Bug and mosquito zappers are quite similar to mosquito traps, but they kill insects immediately. They use the same principle of luring mosquitoes in by either carbon dioxide or light, but mosquitoes are not left to dehydrate. They are killed immediately by electrical shock. Making this method instant and efficient way to kill mosquitoes.