After a winter spent mostly indoors, we're all itching for the chance to head outside. Whether you're playing in the garden, hosting a barbeque on the patio, soaking up nature, or camping in the great outdoors however, the warm weather always brings at least one other big source of itching: mosquitoes.
Uncomfortable and occasionally even deadly, bites from these bugs can raise red welts and more seriously spread diseases like malaria, Zika, West Nile and more. You may already have a tried-and-true way to keep the buggers off your skin — but perhaps you're wondering if there's a way to keep them away from your space entirely.
Happily, there are. And we're not just talking bug zappers, though you can always hang a couple of those around the deck. We'd argue, in fact, that when it comes to battling the little biting beasts, warding them off your skin is important, but isn't enough. It's best to go on the offensive and rid your property of these tiny invaders before they manage to ruin your summer fun and games. Here are some of the best ways to do so.
1. Dump the Standing Water
Mosquitoes will lay eggs practically anywhere that stagnant water can collect, including rainwater in the bottom of a garbage can, swampy potted plants, and saturated, debris-clogged gutters. Drain'em all. If you have a bird bath or kiddie pool change the water at least a few times a week, or get a fountain. (Mosquitoes can't lay eggs in running water.) Alternatively, consider using larvicide biscuits — also known as mosquito dunks. They are safe for humans, pets, and even tadpoles, but will stop larvae from hatching. But if you've got a swimming pool, no worries — the chlorine and the filters will prevent it from turning into a mosquito nursery.
2. Install Fans
Ever notice how on breezy evenings the bugs don't seem as bad? There are several reasons for this. Because they only fly about 1-1.5 mph, even a light wind makes it difficult for mosquitos to land on you. But perhaps even more importantly it also disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale, which is what attracts them in the first place. And of course a nice breeze also cools you down, which dries up the sweat mosquitos love. Moral of the story? Place a few fans around your patio to keep the insects at bay.
3. Landscape Your Yard
Take some time to prune your trees, trim your shrubs and manicure your lawn. The bitty bloodsuckers are drawn to places that are damp, dark and cool, so let the sun shine in to your property. Then lay down some cedar mulch, which both naturally repels mosquitoes and soaks up excess ground water.
4. Bring In Some Predators
While we humans may hate mosquitoes there are things out there that love them — to eat, that is. All manner of migratory songbirds, sparrows, and swallows feast on skeeters, so consider hanging a few feeders throughout your yard to attract them. And if you don't mind bats, they'll eat a ton of the buggers. Install a few bat houses and you'll soon see their dark shapes flitting above your head at night, doing good work. Got a good-sized pond? Stock some koi, goldfish and even red-eared slider turtles in it. They'll help get the biting bug population under control as well.
5. Sprinkle Coffee Grounds
Suppose you've done all you can to eliminate excess moisture in your yard and you still have standing water where mosquitoes can reproduce? Easy peasy — just scatter coffee grounds on the puddles, which will kill any larvae by suffocation. You can also burn excess grounds, which repels the adult insects.
6. Light Candles or Lanterns
Citronella have been the go-to candles for warding off mosquitos for just about forever, but nowadays there are far more options than simply this tried-and-true favorite, including waxes containing geraniol. Also, look for all-in-one lighting and mosquito-repelling gadgets from brands like Thermacell. Yellow and LED lights, which are less attractive to the pest than traditional white bulbs, should also prove successful in helping stave off swarms.
7. Dress Smart
You can only protect your yard from mosquitoes, so much, so it's always worth while to protect you, too. After getting your yard in shape, your last line of defense should be spritzing yourself with bug spray. Deet is effective but essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, clove and lemon, will also work (and smell great). You can also try dressing in loose, light-colored, long-sleeved clothes, which mosquitoes find less attractive than dark hues. And unless you're absolutely dying to wear those new sandals, cover up your feet. Mosquitos zero in on bacteria- and sweat-laden areas of the body.
8. Plant Natural Deterrents
Citronella isn't just a candle scent — it's actually a plant that is surprisingly easy to grow. And there are plenty of other plants that drive away hungry insects. Savory herbs like lemongrass, basil, peppermint, rosemary, lavender and sage as well as flowers including geraniums, chrysanthemums and marigolds all help deter the biting critters. One caveat: you generally have to crush the leaves or petals up and rub them on your skin to get any benefits.
9. Safeguard Your House
Sometimes, mosquitoes have the audacity to invade our hearth and home. In this case, make sure sure you block their access — often a torn screen — before hunting them down with a rolled up newspaper or setting up a mosquito trap, which you can purchase at hardware stores. You can also squirt yourself with a mixture of coconut oil, neem oil and water before bed. It's an all-natural repellent that will last through the night. And if worse comes to worst? Mosquito netting is a time-honored way to keep the biting insects away as you safely slumber.