09 July 2012

10 Natural methods to help control mosquitoes

It's summertime, and as usual, mosquitoes are a problem. Aside from being annoying, the can also carry diseases (e.g., West Nile Virus and/or parasites that kill pets like heartworm). While DEET has been demonstrated as very effective at controlling mosquitoes, many people prefer a more natural or sustainable approach for mosquito control.

Changes for Your Yard
  • Eliminate standing water: Remove yard items that collect water. The most important measure you can take is to remove standing water sources, like birdbaths, wading pools, or pets' water bowls a week. Another sometimes-overlooked place for standing water is blocked eaves-troughs, so keep them clean and well-draining.  However, even moving water (like waterfalls and fountains) can have slow areas that can become a hatchery for mosquito larvae. Add bacillus thuringiensis (BT) to your pond, fountain, or birdbath will kill the larvae, but is safe for pets, fish, birds, and wildlife. It is available at gardening stores in liquid form or as a donut-shaped floating dunk that can be place in water.
  • Marigolds: Plant marigolds around your yard, They work as a natural bug repellent against many flying insects, including mosquitoes, because the flowers give off a fragrance bugs and flying insects don't like. 
  • Yellow lights: Use yellow light bulbs in all patio lamps. These orange/yellow lights don't attract mosquitoes or other flying insects as much as regular white bulbs do.
  • Citronella: Lighting citronella candles when dining out will help control  mosquitoes because they secrete citronella oil that repels mosquitoes.
  • Commercial pheromone traps: Safe, nontoxic pheromone-based mosquito traps are now commercially available.
  • Herbal smoke: When using the barbecue, place some sage or rosemary on the coals (or burn it over the fire) to repel mosquitoes. 
Personal/Portable Mosquito Protection
  • Dark-colored clothing: Wear darker-colored clothes when outside, since mosquitoes don't seem as attracted to them as with lighter colors.
  • Neem oil: Apply a natural insect repellent on your skin like Neem oil, which is a natural vegetable oil extracted from the Neem tree in India. It's natural, non-toxic and goes a long way toward repelling not only mosquitoes but also other small, biting, flying insects. Bathe pets in neem shampoo to repel mosquitoes, ticks and fleas and to protect them from disease. Neem has a strong odor, so test it first in small quantities and areas of the skin.
  • Homemade insect repellents: An effective natural bug repellent can be made by mixing one part garlic juice with five parts water. Put the mixture in a small (2–4 oz.) glass spray bottle , shake well before using, and spray lightly on your skin. It should be effective for up to 5–6 hours. You can also dip long strips of cotton cloth in this mixture and hang in your work or recreation areas as a localized deterrent. In addition, your can make other essential oil repellents as described below.
  • Alternative commercial repellents: Many campers say that Herbal Armor is an excellent, nontoxic, DEET-free repellent, which happens to also be recommended by National Geographic. (According to allterrain.com, Herbal Armor was awarded "Best Gear" by National Geographic Adventure, who said" “Of all the natural, DEET-FREE bug repellents none that we tried was as effective as Herbal Armor.”)
Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe
Aside from the above garlic recipe, you can make other herbal mosquito repellent mixtures. The essential oils listed below naturally repel mosquitoes by themselves. However, it can be beneficial (i.e., more effective) to mix several oils together. Experiment with various mixtures to see which ones work best for you. Always test your oil mixture on a small patch of skin before applying liberally, of course.

Essential Oils with Insect-Repellent Qualities
  • Basil
  • Catnip
  • Clove
  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Garlic
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Myrrh
  • Neem 
  • Palmarosa
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Rosemary

Repellent Mixture Recipe
Mix 2½ teaspoons total of one or more of the above oils with 1 cup vodka. Any proof vodka will work (even the cheap, 40-proof kind that is sometimes more commonly available), as will any grain alcohol.

Place the mixture in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. To apply, you can simply rub a small amount on exposed skin or dab on clothing.  Of course, putting the mixture in a small (2–4 oz.) glass spray bottle makes applying the repellent much easier.

Less-effective or Ineffective Mosquito Repellent
While some people advocate the following methods, they can be less "precise," or perhaps ineffective altogether:
  • Bats: Some people recommend keep a bat house, so that the bats will eat the mosquitoes. However, some studies have found that this can be ineffective for controlling mosquitoes, since bats prefer to dine on larger insects.
  • Bug zappers: Ultrasonic devices and outdoor bug zappers also don’t always help control mosquitoes. What's more, they must be relatively nearby in order to be effective.


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