“It’s widely known that mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal on Earth,” says Dave Brown, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA).
You may loathe that red, itchy bump you get, but mosquitoes are responsible for close to a million deaths each year. They transmit a variety of pathogens, such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya, Zika, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and more.
“That has been going on for centuries,” says Dave. “To protect human health and quality of life, it’s important to reduce the mosquito population.”
That’s why we reached out to Dave Brown, who has more than 30 years of experience in mosquito control and has been helping to educate homeowners with the AMCA since 2019.
Read below for tips on how you can keep your property or neighborhood safe from mosquitoes!
When to worry about mosquitoes
While the southern regions of the U.S. – Houston, Southern Florida, and Southern California – tend to see mosquito populations year-round, the northern regions tend to only see mosquitoes after temperatures remain steady at 60 degrees due to diapause.
“It’s like hibernation, but in the insect world, it’s called diapause or resting stage,” says Dave.
Mosquito species can emerge at different times during warm seasons.
“We have close to 200 species of mosquitoes here in the United States,” says Dave. “Many of them have different types of habitats they use to complete their life cycles.”
Some mosquitoes are now even making your home their home, where it can be warmer and more hospitable.
“We have now an invasive mosquito that’s making its way through the United States that may be able to develop inside the home,” says Dave. “That’s why we really focus on trying to get information out to the public on managing water sites in and around your home.”
How to get rid of mosquitoes around your house
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so one of the best ways to get rid of mosquitoes is to get rid of stagnant water.
How to prevent breeding of mosquitoes in stagnant water
Some species of mosquitoes, known as “container breeders,” can use almost any container with water to breed. They can use wagons, trashcan lids, pet dishes, flowerpots, and more!
“They’ve been known to breed in a bottle cap,” explains Dave. “These mosquitoes will lay their eggs in the dry cap, and then when it rains or gets inundated with water, the eggs will hatch.”
Dave suggests walking around inside and outside your home once a week and emptying any containers with standing water. Homeowners should also contact their local or state mosquito control agency for mosquito safety tips. (In New Jersey, it’s the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association.)
Explains Dave, “They’ll be able to provide the best information on what mosquitoes are bothering you and then the best ways to go about addressing that particular mosquito problem.”
The AMCA also has resources to help homeowners with their mosquito concerns.
“The AMCA has regional directors, and homeowners can always contact the technical advisor,” says Dave with a laugh. “That would be me.”
The power of plant prevention
Mosquitoes like cool and dark areas, so vegetation management can also be helpful.
“There are some plants that are purported to not be as hospitable to mosquitoes as the mosquitoes would like,” says Dave.
Citronella or rosemary plants are two examples. There may be other plants in your area that can help repel mosquitoes.
“Go online and look for whatever plant might be able to grow in your area,” says Dave, “but really, the best way [to prevent mosquito breeding] is to manage aquatic sites.”
Debunking common DIY “remedies”
While you may be tempted to buy your neighbors bug zappers or use candles on your patio, these don’t kill mosquitoes or prevent breeding.
Since carbon dioxide and heat attract mosquitoes, “zappers kill an awful lot of beneficial insects and not that many mosquitoes,” says Dave.
Candles with citronella may provide some repellency, but they can create smokey and undesired conditions in your yard. Mosquito traps for certain species can help to reduce the population.
“The directions have to be followed closely because if the traps aren’t maintained, they can start producing mosquitoes,” says Dave.
“Natural” remedies can also cause problems for a home’s ecosystem.
“Some folks go, ‘Geez, if I just put a whole bunch of garlic all around my house, it’ll be great,’” says Dave.
Unfortunately, the quantity needed may be quite large, and there’s no information on the impact to non-target organisms. An Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticide may offer more benefits as long as the label’s directions are followed.
“The EPA has a very extensive registration process that requires pesticide manufacturers to include whether the product will work against mosquitoes and if it’s safe.”
When to seek professional help
Homeowners should seek professional guidance “anytime they’re getting bitten beyond what they want,” says Dave.
When searching for a specialist, homeowners should look for one who specializes in “evidence-based” control. This type searches for the specific mosquito species and its breeding source. It differs from the weekly or bi-monthly spray treatments.
“It’s a good idea to see if the professional will address the issue at the source, as opposed to trying to put a band-aid on it with treatments at the house,” says Dave.
One of the best ways to see your pest control professional’s technique is to “slap a mosquito and keep it.”
Explains Dave, “If the professional knows what they’re doing, they’ll be able to identify what species it is and then where it’s likely coming from.”
The best way to prevent being bitten
“What we find most effective is individuals using an EPA-registered repellent,” says Dave.
The EPA has a list of registered repellents a homeowner can choose, depending upon the situation.
“[These repellents] are tested to make sure they work,” says Dave. “They’re tested to make sure they’re safe, as long as the directions are followed. We really encourage people to read the label.”
One example of an EPA-registered mosquito repellent is DEET.
“I know a lot of folks are concerned about DEET because it’s a ‘chemical,’ but it’s been a proven repellent for over 50 years. It has a very strong safety record.”
An important part of selecting a repellent is choosing the one that’s best for your situation.
“A hundred percent DEET will provide eight to 10 hours of protection,” says Dave. “If you’re only going to be out for an hour or so, you need a repellent that will provide an hour or so repellency. The EPA website will give you that information.”
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