Mosquito Prevention

It’s been a very wet spring, and not surprisingly, many people have ended up at the BugBlog looking for ways to deal with mosquitoes. The “What’s the best way to repel mosquitoes” post has popped to the top of the “most-viewed” list.

Mosquitoes are so bad at my house, even spraying my clothes with DEET isn’t enough to stop them–a tiny gap between the buttons was all it took for some mozzies to buzz in and get tangled in my bra.  I’ve been bitten twice just while writing this post, and I’m inside my office right now.

One thing you can do to help keep things from getting worse is to prevent this crop of mosquitoes from breeding in and around your yard.mosquito life cycle

Although the adult females that bite have wings, the larval (baby) forms are aquatic and need standing water to live in.

  • Empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans.
  • Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of trash items that hold water, such as old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, and bottles.
  • Make sure drainage ditches actually are draining, and don’t have standing water. Removing blockages can make a big difference.
  • Clean your gutters! You’d be amazed at how many mosquitoes can breed in even a small pool of water in your gutters.

Lastly, make sure your screens are in good shape, too. There’s nothing worse than the whine of a lonely mosquito somewhere in your bedroom, late at night. By denying female mosquitoes a blood meal, you can prevent them from breeding as well.  They can’t lay eggs without that nourishing drink.

If you have standing water that you can’t get rid of, such as an ornamental pond or water feature, you might want to consider using “mosquito donuts.” (The fancy name for this is applying microbial larvicide.) These are usually little round disks that contain spores of a bacteria that kills fly larvae.

These spores are B. t. israelensis, which is a variant of the Bacillus thuringensis that is used to kill caterpillars.  Bt bacteria work by giving insects a sort of stomach flu–since humans are quite different than insects, it has no effect on us or other vertebrates (birds, pets, etc.).

Some of the brand names this biological control is sold under include Skeetal, Aquabac, Mosquito Attack, and Gnatrol. Any good garden center should know what you’re asking for and help you locate them in the pesticide section.

If you have a very large water area, that tends to not breed as many mosquitoes. Larger, permanent ponds and lakes tend to have plenty of predatory insects, amphibians, and fish that keep the mosquitoes under control.

Installing a fountain in any water feature helps to keep mosquitoes down as well. Mosquitoes essentially float with their butt on the surface of the water, breathing air through their hind end.  If you agitate the surface of the water with a fountain, it’s hard for the females to light on the water and lay eggs, and for the larvae to float (and breathe!)

All of these steps will help reduce the numbers of mosquitoes attacking you, and make you a good neighbor to boot.  Sadly, if you keep your gutters and yard tidy, and your neighbor doesn’t… better get some more repellent.

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14 thoughts on “Mosquito Prevention

  1. “a tiny gap between the buttons was all it took for some mozzies to buzz in and get tangled in my bra”

    Dude, this is the 21st century. Someone needs to start slapping down the harassment charges on these misogynist bugs.

    I was working in the Amazon last year, and I made the mistake of forgetting to apply any repellent before going out through the flooded forest in a canoe one day. I ended up with over 150 bites running right the way from my hand back over my shoulders and down the other arm. When I went into the shower and turned it on, the water on my back was like a thousand daggers, eugh.

    The guide I was with said that apparently dark clothes increase the risk of bites – I wonder if that’s true?

  2. The naturalists at the park I used to work at said that dark clothes did indeed attract mozzies (anecdotal evidence, I suspect).

    The running joke was that, naturally, this was why the administration kept choosing dark uniform colors that we had to wear out in the field!

  3. Dark clothes do aid the risk of bites and white clothes detract they say,but have you ever been out in lemon yellow? I have, in the woods around here,and won’t do it again.

  4. I work in the rainforest 24/7 and I agree dark clothes attract mossies. It also has something to do with body odor. My foreign friends who trek the jungle with me always get lots of bites. I hardly get any. Mossies are attracted to unfamiliar scents. After a few days, when mossies are used to my foreign friends, bites are drastically reduced. Also, I find that certain perfume and deodorants attract mossies. I’m no bug expert. Bug girl, can insect smell ?

  5. “it’s true with other biting flies, deerflies and horseflies.
    I haven’t heard any confirmation for mosquitoes, though.”

    It has been confirmed for some species of mosquitoes that bite during the day.

    And yes Casey, mossies can smell very well indeed. Carbon dioxide is important, as well as other chemicals from our sweat and breath. And there are so many interesting chemicals that sometimes go into perfumes and deodorants; some of them are the same as plant odours, which attract insects. Mosquitoes can also detect heat very well.

    Some people are naturally more attractive to mosquitoes because of their particular smell. It is always good to have friends like that around. It keeps the rest of us safe. Who needs repellents when your friends are attractants.

  6. Thank you for the welcome.

    There are a couple of citations. I was lucky enough to meet a couple of researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research who were looking at mosquito attraction (a few years back now). See:
    Wen et al. (1997). Response of Culex quinquefasciatus to visual stimuli. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 13: 150-152

    And for a discussion on contrast and reflectance:
    Muir et al. (1992). Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae) vision: response to stimuli from the optical environment. Journal of Medical Entomology 29: 445-450

    You gave a great summary of the repellents as well. That was interesting to read. Another reference from some Aussie researchers on the topic here, which backs up what you have written:
    Frances et al. (2004). Field evaluation of repellent formulations containing deet and picaridin against mosquitoes in Northern Territory, Australia. Journal of Medical Entomology 41: 414-417.

    Personally, it is not the bites that annoy me the most. It is that noise when you have one in your bedroom at night. I’d be happy enough if they could genetically engineer a mosquito that flew quietly! Now there’s a grant proposal. ;)

  7. well, no wonder I didn’t find those–I didn’t use “visual stimuli” as search terms!

    Thanks–fodder for a future post, once I dig those up. Most of JME is now online in digital form, fortunately.

  8. How often do you yourself swim and what stroke or do you just write about it?

    Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

    Very impressive that this blog is syndicated through Google and is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

    Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

    Swimming greats you should write about next, my ex was an olympic swimmer!

  9. Um. I have no idea what you mean, Tonfa.
    And this post isn’t about swimming?

    I hope this doesn’t mean more people are stealing my content again….

  10. Bug girly…I did some un scientific research and came up with some interesting points.

    It all comes back to life style:

    “Science has found that organisms that carry disease, such as mosquitoes, prefer an acidic environment.

    Well, insects are more likely to bite if your blood is sweet and has an acidic condition. If you don’t take sugar or alcohol, mosquitoes won’t bother you very much.

    Macrobiotic teacher Adelbert Nelissen survived many trips to Africa where, once the windows are open, the room ceiling gets covered black with mosquitoes. But he dislikes sleeping in an air-conditioned room. So he avoids getting bitten by keeping an umeboshi plum (yang/alkaline) in his mouth all night long. Thus, by restoring the body’s acid-alkali balance, umeboshi helps to restore health”.

    So no beer and a plum in the mouth is the way forwards for these little buggers.

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