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Ree Drummond may be "the last person anyone ever pictured moving to the country," but she's certainly embraced ranch life. Once, she even spent a whole afternoon on the Drummond Ranch taking pictures of spiders and making friends with a grasshopper! "I've always had a special connection with the insect world. Bugs just love me," Ree says.
Mosquitoes, on the other hand? No one likes them. It's a universal truth we can all get behind: mosquito bites are the worst. Right now, you're probably gearing up for a summer season of swimming, fishing, and enjoying your favorite BBQ recipes in the great outdoors. And there's nothing that can ruin a perfectly nice evening than the annoying sound of a mosquito buzzing in your ear!
Luckily, some people enjoy studying these pests to help us deal with the problem. "I'm a bug guy, but I'm also a victim of them," jokes Lal S. Mian, Ph.D, M.S., an editor of the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). "There are over 3,000 species globally, but only about 10% of them are the trouble makers." If you're wondering how to get rid of mosquitoes, you've come to the right place. Here are some things you can do in your home and yard outside.
How to Prevent Indoor Mosquitoes
Most of the time, you're not going to have swarms of mosquitoes in your house because they prefer to breed and multiply outside. Still, they can slip in through cracks and doors, and no one likes to wake up with a million itchy bites. These are the best preventative indoor measures you can take:
Avoid leaving doors open.
An open door to you is an open door to a mosquito. "When I leave my office door just a crack, they will get in," says Dr. Mian. If you need to keep your mudroom or garage door open but are concerned about bugs flying in, consider setting up a cooling fan. Fans can be helpful in smaller spaces as they circulate air and confuse mosquitoes.
Check and repair all screens.
Even if you fixed your screens last summer, it's always good practice to check that no tears or holes developed over the winter. That means screen doors and windows!
Drain standing water in your home.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs around standing water, particularly water sitting for a few days. "I've even seen larval mosquitoes living in things as small as bottle tops," says Daniel Markowski, Ph.D, an AMCA technical advisor. "Bottom line is it doesn't take much water, nor does it take much time for them to develop." Check that your sinks and indoor planters are draining properly. Clean and disinfect your pet's water bowl frequently, or switch to a pet fountain that keeps the water moving.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes Outside
Getting rid of mosquitoes outside is a hard task. Instead, prevention is a better goal than to cure, says Dr. Mian. You can take plenty of steps to limit their infringement on your yard or picnic. "The American Mosquito Control Association uses the three D's: drain, dress, defend."
Drain any standing water outside, too.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs on the edges of standing water, and those eggs can survive drying out for up to eight months. If water eventually covers them again, they will hatch. "Say you have an old tire holding sprinkler water in your yard, and mosquitoes lay their eggs. Even if the tire dries up, the next time it is sprinkled with water, those eggs will hatch and grow into adults," Dr. Mian explains.
You might not mind getting rid of an old tire, but there are many breeding grounds in your yard to scrub or drain as a preventative measure. "Dump water from buckets, flower pots, tarps, wheelbarrows, tires, etc.," says Dr. Markowski. "If possible, turn over or cover them so they can't collect more water." Clean bird baths, kiddie pools, and dog bowls regularly and drain them when they're not in use. Some breeding sites, like tree stumps, can't be dumped or drained, and require filling instead.
Clear debris from the gutters around your home once a week to ensure they are draining water properly. "Another cryptic habitat I've seen are the corrugated pipes that many people attach to the bottom of their downspouts," Dr. Markowski explains. "This tubing is often used to direct water further from the foundation but can easily collect water inside."
Dr. Mian adds that you want to ensure your lawn has proper drainage because moist mud or over-watered grass can become a breeding spot.
Dress to prevent mosquitoes.
Summer is the season for shorts and tank tops, but you'll want to cover up a bit more if you want to avoid bites. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, as they can bite through tight clothes and are generally attracted to dark clothing.
Furthermore, wear shoes: Ever notice how these pests seem to always go for our ankles? They're attracted to our stinky, sweaty feet! Wash your feet daily and wear clean socks that cover the ankles.
Defend yourself with the right products.
You have plenty of defense options now available for your home and body, both natural and chemical! Begin by choosing a mosquito repellent that contains either Deet, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, Para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
Next, think about your environment: Mosquito dunks are an inexpensive and environmentally conscious method for dealing with open water that can't be drained (like pools or fountains). These products are dissolvable disks or donuts made from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis serotype israelensis (BTI), which produces a toxin that kills larvae before they become a problem. These products typically last for 30 days.
Citronella candles set the mood and defend against mosquitoes. They're made with lemongrass oil, and the smell of the candles repulses mosquitoes. Line your patio, deck, or picnic blanket with them, as the lit candles are most effective in their immediate area.
If you have a green thumb and really want to play defense, learn about mosquito-repellent plants such as rosemary, lemongrass, and mint. You can also add water plants to your pond and plant along the edge to create a more inviting environment for dragonflies, our favorite mosquito-eating bug.
Mosquitos and their accompanying issues will vary by region (and even within states!). So, before taking any drastic action, do your research about your area. Mosquito control is a community issue, not an individual one. "I could be doing everything, but I can't control my neighbors," adds Dr. Mian.