In the summer, your backyard should, ideally, feel like a place of refuge—somewhere you can lounge in the shade, kick back for a barbecue, and, most importantly, relax.
But then—smack!—there's the biggest summer buzzkill: the fresh, itchy, welt of a mosquito bite. The mosquitoes have once again arrived and want to make your home their home.
Jim Fredericks, Ph.D., chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, explains, “Mosquitoes don’t bite out of self-defense. When they bite, they are looking for their next blood meal.”
As it turns out, mosquitoes are more than a hungry nuisance—they can also carry serious diseases, such as Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue and malaria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although it may seem as if the mosquitoes have decided yours is their favorite yard on the block—and, they very well may have, if you’ve inadvertently provided them with a place to breed—you don’t have to surrender your backyard or your skin to these six-legged fliers. We talked to experts to find out the best solutions to deter mosquitoes from invading your backyard this summer.
Mosquitoes are attracted to standing bodies of water like bird baths and puddles around the backyard, and they’ll linger on the surface of the water.
The CDC recommends emptying and scrubbing vessels that collect water at least once a week. And these water collectors can be smaller than you think.
Fredericks says, “Mosquitoes only need a half-inch of water to breed, meaning they can lay their eggs in something as small as a bottle cap.”
Examine obvious places like your bird baths (unless you have a water wiggler, which agitates water in bird baths and disrupts the mosquito breeding process), baby pools, flowerpots, pet water bowls, buckets, rain barrels, and gutters. Seek out smaller, less noticeable ones like discarded tires or forgotten water bottles and, yes, caps.
You may also have standing water issues in your yard, which you’ll notice as puddles that don’t drain or dry quickly after it rains—if this is the case, you may need a professional to come in and grade your land.
To kill off the mosquito larvae in standing water, mosquito dunks are an effective option. Mosquito dunks are made of Bacillus thuringiensis strain israelensis, a kind of naturally-derived soil bacteria. They’re toxic to mosquito larvae, but safe for humans and pets. If standing water has been left unattended for a while or is difficult to drain, these small, brick-like pellets kill off mosquito larvae.
With this said, depending on the brand you use, it may end up killing other non-pest insects like honey bees and butterflies. According to Pests.org, some mosquito dunks worth using are Pre-Strike Mosquito Torpedo and Summit Mosquito Dunks.
Even if you’ve done your best to prevent mosquito-breeding in your backyard, it is inevitable that some mosquitoes—hatched elsewhere, of course—will find their way to your backyard.
You just want to dine al fresco, but dozens of uninvited guests have arrived at your meal. Keeping mosquitoes out of your home space may feel difficult, but it’s surely not impossible.
Invest in some screening for your porch, and, if you already have screens, ensure they fit securely and have no holes. If you can’t install screening, this mosquito netting patio umbrella is a great option for easy and portable protection from mosquitoes while relaxing outdoors.
Another good preventative measure is outfitting your backyard dining area with a fan or two, because mosquitoes are “weak” flyers and often have difficulty navigating against an airstream, according to Joe Conlon, Technical Advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association.
While there are millions of products on the market that claim to repel mosquitoes, the fact of the matter is that some of them just won’t work as well as other strategies, like implementing physical barriers and mosquito mitigation.
You can skip the bug-"repelling" candles and torches as your main mosquito repellent strategy. Citronella candles offer a fresh lemongrass scent, but these shouldn’t be used as your sole barrier between you and the bugs.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, citronella candles are supposed to work by covering up scents that are attractive to pests, but “no studies could be located” that prove this.
Conlon says citronella has a “mild repellent effect,” but it doesn’t offer significantly more protection than regular candles. So, for an added touch of protection, you can place some decorative citronella candles around your patio space if you want to—but make sure to implement some other protection, too.