Uninvite mosquitoes from your next barbecue
One minute, you’re enjoying a hamburger fresh off the grill; the next, you’re furiously scratching at your knee, just bitten by the season’s most-hated enemy—the mosquito. Learn how to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard—even if you live in an area prone to them—so you can enjoy the outdoors again.
What Attracts Mosquitoes?
As tempting as it is to focus on killing mosquitoes, always start by investigating what attracts them to your yard in the first place. Mosquitoes are on the hunt for a place to hide, lay eggs, and of course, eat. In the warmer months, your yard happens to offer all three.
1. Standing Water
Standing water is by far the largest mosquito magnet. And we're talking about everything from a small puddle in your garden after a rain shower to the swimming pool.
The first three stages of a mosquito's life cycle require water to thrive. And since a single female can lay up to 100 eggs at a time—in something the size of a bottle cap, no less—standing water not only attracts mosquitoes to stay but also to multiply quickly.
2. Lawn Debris
From piles of firewood to outdoor playsets, mosquitoes are on the lookout for safe places to nest. They want shelter from the wind in order to reproduce, so don’t offer this freely.
Lawn clutter can also—you guessed it—hold standing water. Keeping lawn clutter to a minimum is crucial in getting rid of mosquitoes. You’ll also want to store firewood so it’s off the ground and covered to keep mosquitoes away.
3. Thick Grass and Thatch
Where else can mosquitoes find a wind-free, protected, and moist place to hide? Overgrown, dense, and poorly draining lawns can quickly become the hottest mosquito meetup in town.
And while mowing your grass on schedule will help, keep an eye on the soil as well. Compacted or highly acidic soil can lead to overgrown lawn thatch—that thick layer of organic material between your grass and soil. Too much thatch keeps water from draining properly and creates an ideal mosquito home.
4. Carbon Dioxide
You’re just on your patio minding your own business, but mosquitoes can detect body warmth, carbon dioxide (when you exhale), lactic acid (when you sweat), and other sweet-smelling compounds in humans and pets, which brings them over to crash your party.
5. Food Remnants
Whether you're hosting a lively barbeque or sitting outside with your morning coffee, mosquitoes will find any sweet-smelling items you’ve left out on the table.
Blood is not the only preferred meal of the mosquito—both males and females enjoy fruit nectar as well, attracting them to the sweet smells of your outdoor snacks. This means your milkshake could, quite literally, bring all the mosquitoes to the yard.
Are Mosquitoes Dangerous?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 200 types of mosquitoes in the United States. Besides leaving painful welts, they can spread parasites and viruses such as West Nile and Dengue.
Even though all you may ever get from a mosquito is an itchy bite, you’ll still want to take steps to get rid of them to help protect yourself, family, and pets.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes in Your Yard
While fragrant repellents might be your first line of defense, even strong citronella candles won’t get rid of mosquitoes when you’re dealing with a larger problem. You might have to go a step further by killing the mosquitoes in your yard to tackle their troublesome troops. If you need help, hire a mosquito control service in your area.
1. Liquidate the Larvae
By wiping out mosquito larvae in water, you’ll nip the problem in the bud before it can nip you back. Liquid, granule, or pellet Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) products contain toxins that target and kill mosquito eggs and larvae in water within minutes.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria found in soil that carries no risks for humans but is lethal to mosquito larvae (and gnat larvae too).
Less costly than many chemical pesticides, the CDC explains that Bti is also better for the environment. It doesn’t harm pets, wildlife, aquatic life, or insects, including pollinators like honeybees. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and wear gloves while applying it.
2. Spray or Mist With a Mosquito Fogger
Want to keep mosquitoes away from your deck? Applying an insecticide through a cloud-forming mosquito mist fogger is a fast and effective way of killing mosquitoes in your yard before inviting your friends around. Treatments last up to 72 hours and cover a large outdoor area.
Some tips for misting include:
The label is the law: Always follow individual manufacturer instructions carefully.
Use protective clothing and a respirator mask.
Don’t mist on a windy day.
Keep children and pets indoors while misting and immediately afterward.
Foggers have a pretty strong odor, so give it time to dilute before going outdoors.
3. Buy or DIY Repellents
Natural and synthetic mosquito repellents come in yard, fabric, and body sprays, as well as candles, electronic repellers, and even bracelets. These products may contain chemical-based products like DEET, permethrin, and picaridin or plant-based oils.
Stick to EPA-registered active ingredients, such as products made with oil of lemon eucalyptus, DEET, or picaridin, and follow the instructions for safe use.
For a DIY solution, lemon eucalyptus oil is one of the best options for keeping mosquitoes at bay. A study on eucalyptus oil showed it provides protection from mosquitoes for up to three hours.
Mix 1 part lemon eucalyptus oil with 10 parts sunflower oil, but don’t use this solution directly on the skin of children younger than 3 years old.
4. Plant Natural Repellents
Imagine a pest-free backyard barbecue surrounded by a fortress of plants that mosquitoes hate. Add an herb garden next to your patio filled with catnip, holy basil, citronella, peppermint, lemon thyme, and rosemary. Flowering plants like marigolds and lavender help get rid of mosquitoes and attract beautiful pollinators.
5. Attract Natural Predators
Birds and bats love a mosquito snack, so make your yard as hospitable to these predators as possible. In addition to bird feeders—only those that do not collect water—add areas of shelter and food sources.
Attract birds with native tree species for nesting, their favorite local seed-packed flowers, and by keeping the cats inside. Bats love night-blooming flowers and bat houses for shelter.
6. Use Fans
Create a steady breeze with a fan to help get rid of mosquitoes. From ceiling fans to oscillating floor fans, strategically place them around your patio and gathering areas to keep mosquitoes away. Another bonus is that fans help dissipate the carbon dioxide from your breath that attracts these pesky insects.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away
Now that you know how to get rid of mosquitoes, let’s focus on prevention. Reclaim your outdoor space by taking some preventative measures.
How to Prevent Mosquitoes in Your Yard
Your yard should be a place where the kids can play, dogs can romp, and you can tend to your garden without the fear of mosquitoes. Here’s how you can reduce the amount of mosquitoes in your yard.
1. Stamp Out Standing Water
Nothing encourages mosquitoes to multiply more than standing water in your yard. It’s the perfect breeding ground. Analyze your landscape and patio or porch setup for unseen standing water opportunities.
These may include:
Poorly draining soil
Irrigation system issues
Water pooling on pavement, pavers, or steps
Clogged gutters and gutter drainage
Slopes near your foundation
Bird feeders and birdbaths
Lawn furniture and decor
After rainfall or watering your lawn, check all the common culprits for standing water, even if it's a small pool in the edge of a planter.
2. Improve Drainage
In addition to finding where standing water likes to hide, stop water pooling by ensuring good yard drainage. Compacted soil, for example, may require dethatching or an aeration service either on your own or with a local landscaper.
Sloped lawns may benefit from water-hungry plants or those that fight erosion. And lastly, consider altering your watering schedule or irrigation settings—sometimes, there's just more water than your landscape can handle.
3. Clean Your Gutters
Decomposing leaves, branches, and moss in your gutters can create a hot spot for mosquito gatherings. Clean your gutters at least once or twice a year, depending on the trees in your yard and whether you have gutter guards installed. Not only will this keep the mosquitoes out, but it will also keep other pests from nesting and possibly hiding in your eaves—or attic—in the winter.
4. Watch Your Water Elements
So, what about pools, ponds, or fountains in your yard? Add a fountain or aeration pump to your pond and check that your fountain doesn't cause any small pockets of standing water.
As for your pool, stay up to date with your chlorine treatments and run the filter regularly. You can also add Bti if you suspect existing mosquito larvae. This bacterial larvicide is effective against pests like mosquitoes, aquatic gnats, and black flies.
5. Encourage Airflow
Since wind is one of the largest deterrents of mosquito nests, remove major barriers that will keep those breezes flowing. Large piles of leaves, branches, or construction debris provide shelter—and often pooled water—for mosquitoes.
How to Prevent Mosquitoes From Coming Inside Your Home
Keeping mosquitoes to a minimum in your yard makes them less likely to enter your home. But it’s still worth taking extra steps to hinder these unwanted house guests.
1. Build Bug-Proof Barriers
Well-fitting fine mesh screens on windows and doors mean you can let in the fresh air without welcoming undesirable visitors. You can also hire a screened porch builder in your area to add bug screens to an existing patio. If you already have screens, regularly check the seals and repair any openings.
2. Switch Light Bulbs
Bug lights emit a yellow glow that mosquitoes and the likes aren’t as attracted to as a standard bright light bulb. Swap out lights in mosquito hot spots, like decks, porches, and kitchens, and don’t forget to switch off house lights when you’re not around to minimize temptation.
3. Activate the Air Conditioning
Mosquitoes love warm, moist environments, typically above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Running the air conditioning makes your home a cooler, drier, less-attractive place.
DIY vs. Hire a Pro
If you’ve gone all out to fend off these flying pests and the bites keep coming, it might be time to hire pest control pros to get rid of the mosquitoes for you. On average, mosquito treatment costs $350 to $500 per season, depending on the type of treatment and frequency of service.
Pros will need to make repeat visits during peak mosquito season to hold them off, with each treatment costing upwards of $70. DIY treatments cost $10 to $60 per treatment. But the pros know which treatments are most effective and how to use them safely, all while minimizing the risk to surrounding pollinators.
Frequently Asked Questions
Naturally occurring EPA-registered Bti products are an effective way to kill off mosquitoes at the larval stage. And, although they won’t wipe them out, there are lots of natural repellents that make your yard less attractive to mosquitoes. Try planting some marigolds, lemon thyme, or other plants they’ll steer clear of, light a citronella candle or two, or lay some bug-offensive cedar mulch.
Some of the smells we love are, thankfully, pretty putrid for mosquitoes. A few essential oils that might have them swarming in the other direction include:
Be careful how and where you apply essential oils around pets and children, and top them off regularly so they stay effective.
There aren’t any solutions that can rid your yard of mosquitoes for good. But with a good integrated management strategy that combines repellents, treatments, decluttering, and drainage, you can keep populations in check.