Summer means time in the backyard — barbequing, hanging out in the pool, or just enjoying the lazy days with friends and a cold beverage. Nothing can ruin a quiet summer evening more than mosquitoes! Remembering to put on layers of repellent is annoying, and treating those itchy bites is equally so. Not to mention the risk of West Nile virus! Keep mosquitoes from ruining your outdoors time with these tips and tricks.
Get rid of standing, stagnant water. This is by far the best thing you can do to keep mosquitoes out of your backyard. Mosquitoes are drawn to stagnant water because they lay their eggs there. Removing breeding spaces will reduce the mosquitoes drawn to your yard and interrupt the life cycle. Birdbaths and other lawn decorations can be perfect mosquito breeding areas; take the water out of them til mosquito season is over. Check for low-lying spots under bushes and in flowerbeds. Be sure not to leave buckets or other containers of water standing overnight (think: kiddie pools). If you have a swimming pool, make sure that your filtration system is running properly and the water is circulating.
Clear debris. Mosquitos will also breed in damp soil and mulch. If you have yard debris lying around — grass clippings, fallen branches, piles of soil — they will be appealing breeding grounds. Take some time to clean up the yard and gutters — dead leaves are mosquito heaven!. It will not only keep the mosquitoes at bay but will make it even more pleasant to spend time in the yard.
Break out the coffee. No, really. Coffee grounds are a great mosquito repellent, especially in areas where you have standing water that you just can’t seem to drain and prevent from re-collecting. Take the grounds from your morning coffee and sprinkle in low-lying areas or areas where you’ve noticed mosquitoes congregating. Bonus: coffee grounds are great for the soil.
Set mosquito traps. Set a few mosquito traps around the yard. You can purchase commercial traps, but it’s easy to make your own. Cut the top off of a 2 liter soda bottle. Invert the cut top into the bottle (neck down). If the bottle is clear, cover the outside with paper — black or brown works best, but any will do. Then make a solution by boiling 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water together. Add 2 cups cool water and 1 packet active yeast. Pour the solution into the bottle and watch the mosquitos dive to their demise. You’ll need to replace your homemade traps when they get full.
Plant natural repellents. Many plants are natural mosquito repellents. Incorporate them into your landscaping or grow them in pots that can be placed around the yard. Good choices include citronella, catnip, lemon balm, marigolds, peppermint, and lavender. These plants only release the repellent compounds when they’re injured, so place them where people will brush them as they walk past, or simply periodically crush some leaves.
Let the light in. Mosquitoes prefer dimly lit places. Creating more light in the yard will help deter mosquitoes. If you have lots of shade trees, trimming them to allow more light is one way to keep mosquitoes out of the yard. Luminaries and other yard lighting can help chase of the mosquitoes as well. Lighting lanterns and candles that contain citronella and other mosquito-repelling oils is also a great option; you get the one-two punch of the light and the oils themselves.
Consider hiring a pro. If your area has a major mosquito problem, or you find that all your DIY efforts don’t reduce the amount of buzzing and biting, consider hiring a professional to treat your yard. They’ll be able to evaluate areas that might be drawing mosquitoes, and they have heavy-duty repellents that the average person can’t pick up at the local big-box store. If you’re concerned about the chemicals, seek out a service that uses all natural repellents (though beware these are just as powerful — natural doesn’t mean 100% safe!). If you’re planning a party or other big event in your yard, have it treated for mosquitos at least 24 hours in advance.