With all the storming and flooding here in Texas, a major concern is also a potentially lethal one: Mosquitoes. These pests are flourishing even as homes are being destroyed and livelihoods are suffering. The flood waters rise and recede, collecting in standing pools of water; these pools create a turbo-charged breeding ground for the suckers.
The females lay eggs in still pools and the larvae hang out until they pupate, mature, and eventually add to our annoyance. Their full life cycle is a quick one, taking only two weeks. This makes a little bit of rain a really big problem.
We’ve had a whole lot of rain. Most people know that mosquitoes bite for blood for the nutrition to lay more eggs, but very few know it’s only the females that do so. Both sexes also eat nectar from plants. Another thing I didn’t know until I wrote this post is the way in which mosquitoes find their prey. They are attracted to the Carbon-Dioxide we exhale and also like the sweet smell they perceive from our skin.
The good news is there are more than a handful of ways to fight back against the forces of mosquito kind during this year’s crazy Texas spring with natural solutions. We’ve rounded them up, and even found a useful one you can make at home with the same ingredients you might use to make a loaf of bread.
1. Draining & Water Feature Churning
This may seem like a no brainer, but some people don’t consider this very simple way to keep mosquitoes at bay. Simply walking around your property and overturning patio chairs, buckets, wheelbarrows, and other places the rain has puddled will remove dozens of places for mosquito larvae to thrive. Stopped up plant saucers or pet dishes are not too small of a location either. Likewise, scrubbing out and changing the water in birdbaths weekly and using a pump to move water in man-made ponds or other still water features in your yard will interrupt the pests’ life cycle. Also, adding fish to ponds or pools will add a layer of protection, as they will gladly gobble up any mosquito larvae floating in their habitat. Another spot people don’t consider are gutters; Remove debris and maintain the flow of water to eliminate their use as a nest.
2. Create a Slippery Landing Site
Since mosquitoes have to land from time to time (just like many other insects), creating a slippery, unnatural feeling place to do so will force the pest population to seek a different spot. All you have to do is mix natural liquid dish soap with water in a 1 to 3 ratio and use it through a hose-attached spray feeder like this one. Then just spray it all over your lawns, lesser used fields, larger bushes and trees. This simple tactic is safe for twice-weekly use, but we don’t recommend it for fields where livestock are being kept. Though this may deter bugs that you want around such as butter- or dragonflies, it will cut back on the mosquito population.
For larger bodies of water that you don’t need immediate access to, using super fine or mesh screening is effective at keeping female mosquitoes out and eggs from being laid. This method is great for gutters, open air water tanks, or rain catching barrels.
4. Air Curtains & Misters
Businesses within the food industry have been using air curtain systems in their entry ways since they were developed in 1916. Not only are they mostly inconspicuous, but air curtains are incredibly effective at keeping flying buggers out of buildings. The smaller units for residential zones are as easy to install. Make sure you get one that has adjustable vents and keep your air blowing at a 20 degree angle for maximum mosquito protection.
Another alternative to keep mosquitoes away from your home and garden is with the vary element they need to lay eggs. By putting excessive moisture in the air, you make it difficult for mosquitoes to fly. If they can’t fly, they can’t find places to lay eggs or eat nectar. Misters systems are a little more complex to install than air curtains and you will need to be aware of any pooling from them. But if your goal is to keep the bugs away from gathering places or out of your buildings, they are a viable option.
Donut-shaped dunks are a great option for large pools of water you can’t easily screen in or that need to stay open. These tablets are pressed organic material infused with spores called bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These spores are naturally in our environment, and have subversions that repell different insects. Bt Israelenses is exclusively toxic to mosquitoes, and won’t harm animals, children, or other wildlife. Water storage tanks or livestock watering troughs are great places to use them. Once dunks are dropped into water, the Bt releases. The mosquito larvae munch on it and die within 24 hours.
6. Essential Oil Repellants
A natural alternative to sprays and lotions claiming to keep mosquitoes away are essential oils. Concentrated lemongrass, cinnamon, tea tree, geraniol or cedar oils are all effective at warding off these buzzing pests. Lemongrass is the active ingredient in most citronella candles or bug sprays. Infusing these oils in areas you want to deter mosquitoes can work, but for larger areas you may need to have several working. You can also dilute any of the above oils and rub or spray on skin, clothes, and pets’ coats.
7. Magnet Traps
Magnet traps are clever contraptions that convert propane into CO2 in order to lure mosquitoes close enough to vacuum them up to their death. The concentration of CO2 is so appealing to them that one machine can maintain over an acre of land. It takes a little longer than the other solutions above, 4-6 weeks, but then the enemies numbers are greatly reduced and stay gone. Commercial machines cost around $600 plus the cost of propane.
A cheaper option is to make your own mosquito magnet trap. These require no propane, just some staple pantry items and a 2-liter bottle. The brown sugar offers the sweetness mosquitoes smell on our skin while the yeast releases CO2. Studies show that mosquitoes are also often drawn to darker colors, so wrapping the trap in black construction paper further appeals to them. This combination hordes them to the opening, and once they get in, it’s impossible to get out. Make several of these and place them around your property away from areas where people or pets gather. These can be as effective as the expensive commercial option above.
- 1 2-liter bottle
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. active yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- Black construction paper
- Remove bottle lid and cut the bottle in half short-ways.
- Mix sugar with warm water, stir to dissolve and let cool.
- Place sugar-water in the bottom half of the bottle.
- Sprinkle yeast into sugar water mixture.
- Place the top half of bottle upside down into the bottom half and tape together.
- Wrap the outside of the trap in black construction paper and tape to secure.
If you don’t care about keeping your pest control healthy…
Scourge, Anvil, or Permethrin are three chemical concoctions that will make your yard glow in the dark, but by golly no critters! They’ve been touted in most major cities as a great alternative but there are a lot of health concerns associated with them so be aware that the other suggestions above should be your first lines of defense against mosquitoes before considering these.
Please share this post with friends and family who’ve been dealing with excessive water or pests. Maybe together we can keep the mosquito population at a reasonable existence level. Have you tried any or all of these natural options and had success? Do you have another suggestion or item we missed? Please tell us in comments below.