With a good plan and a structured approach, keeping your home mosquito free in summer is absolutely doable. And you can do it safely and without poisons too.
The key is to start at the source – their breeding grounds, and to move logically through your outside spaces, into your house and onto your person.
At every step there are actions you can take which will make the difference between a nightmare summer and the relaxed happy break you deserve. Take a look at our 17 point system for ridding your home of pesky mosquitoes.
1. Eliminate standing water in the yard and home
You’ll remember from elementary school biology that mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Particularly if you live in a climate with summer rain, it’s vital that you do a regular check to ensure that stagnant water isn’t collecting in birdbaths, puddles and other receptacles in your garden.
Repair dripping taps and hose pipes, and empty blocked gutters and half full watering cans.
All of these encourage breeding, as does moisture collected around your compost heap. Invest in a sealed unit for your compost and you’ll eliminate another important source of mosquito infestation.
Mosquitoes not only breed in the outdoors but are just as happy to lay eggs in flower vases or other water containers. Use organic, completely safe Bti larvicides to prevent these breeding grounds from adding to the problem.
Tip: Here’s a big ol’ list of tips on how to keep your yard mosquito-free.
2. Build a bat house
Whilst many people associate bats with unpleasant diseases, the truth is that there are only three species which feed on blood – and those are native to Central and South America.
Fully 70% of bats are insectivores, and some are said to be able to eat up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour, That’s why constructing a bat house in your own garden or as a community project with near neighbors makes
perfect somewhat sense.
The efficacy of this natural, non-toxic mosquito control method is highly debated. Some folks claim, “encourage these friendly creatures and within a year you’ll feel the difference”. A year is the time required for a bat colony to settle.
Others state that bats aren’t effective as they mainly eat moths, beetles, and wasps. While the jury isn’t out, a bat colony may be a useful addition to an integral mosquito control approach.
3. Place plants strategically in window sills and on balconies
The citronella and pyrethrum used in many commercial insect repellents are naturally available in the citronella plant and in marigolds.
Cultivating these mosquito-repelling plants, and others such as catnip, lavender, lemon balm and basil, in garden beds and window pots has been shown to ward off mosquitoes effectively. The plants and especially the natural scent they emit, forms a barrier between the outside and the home which mosquitoes prefer not to cross.
Catnip for example was revealed in a 2010 study to be 10 times more effective than diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), the ingredient commonly found in bug repellents.
Geraniums, rosemary, penny royal and basil also work well, and a few stalks of rosemary on the hot coals when you barbecue will keep mosquitoes at bay.
4. Install screens on windows and doors
Even with the first three steps firmly in place, your home will not be a mosquito-free sanctuary unless you install good quality screens on all your exterior windows and doors – and then check regularly and scrupulously for holes and tears.
Think about enclosing your porch or veranda too. Provided it has an overhead frame, any outside living area can be protected from insect pests.
Mosquito net curtains are a romantic and cost effective alternative to screening but be sure to provide extra volume and length to create “billowiness” and fill gaps.
5. Use an electric fan
When it comes to in-home solutions, scientific evidence indicates that the humble electric fan is superior to any other mosquito deterrent in terms of its effectiveness. There are two reasons for this.
- Firstly mosquitoes are not good flyers. Moving at an average speed of 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, they are easily swept off course by the breeze from a strategically placed fan.
- Secondly, the breeze from a fan disperses the exhalations which make humans a target for female mosquitoes, namely carbon dioxide, body heat and odors.
These are the substances which indicate our warm-bloodedness and thus our usefulness as suppliers of the blood required to develop fertile eggs.
Still or oscillating, in the house or out of doors, an electric fan should be part of your armory.
6. Experiment with camphor
There is a huge range of mosquito repellent devices available for use inside the home. Camphor, a waxy substance extracted from the wood of the Camphor laurel tree, is a valid alternative to many of these devices.
In fact, camphor is a class-A mosquito repellent. According to many users it’s the best remedy the know.
As well as having many medicinal uses, camphor acts to improve the quality of the air. And like eucalyptus, citronella and similar plants, camphor is a natural mosquito repellent. It simply has an odour which drives mosquitoes away.
Burning pieces of camphor in a closed room creates an acrid smoke which is a potent deterrent. Unfortunately it also deters humans.
You can achieve similar results by placing camphor tablets in the corners of a room. Left there, they will evaporate within a day, keeping the air purer and mosquito free.
A more practical approach is to set up wide mouthed glass bowls or saucers in unventilated corners, fill them with water, and leave a lightly crushed camphor tablet in each. The camphor soon dissolves so you need to renew the tablet every few days. Don’t throw away the old water. Use it when you wash floors or wipe surfaces.
7. Rethink and hack commercial scent-based plug-ins
Commercially available mosquito coils and plug in devices are potentially toxic. They are also expensive and may cause allergies. In tablet form, camphor is ideally suited for insertion into any kind of plug-in repellent device which usually uses mats.
You won’t need to buy chemical refills again. With the camphor in place, plug in twice a day for an hour at a time. Camphor evaporates when combined with warmth, and then acts quickly with the air to drive away mosquitoes.
Another, all-natural, DIY refill is orange or citrus peel with cloves.
8. Use an aromatherapy burner
Warming essential oils over a tea candle is an established practice in aromatherapy. It is also effective as an insect repellent in the home.
As an essential oil for use in an aromatherapy burner, eucalyptus is an excellent substitute for the powerful but pungent citronella.
Eucalyptus has medicinal and antiseptic qualities of its own, and was recognized as an insecticide and miticide* in the US where it was registered in 1948. ( * also called Acaricide, a chemical substance used to control ticks or mites)
9. Burn citronella candles
Citronella oil is extracted from Cympbogon (lemon grass) and its mosquito repellent qualities have been verified by research.
While it is widely used in soaps, repellent sticks, and other personal products, its strong smell makes it something most people do not want on their skin.
For summer evening festivities in the garden or on the patio, citronella candles are somewhat effective. Make your own, light them at dusk and leave them to flicker all night.
These candles and coils do emit large particles (aerosols) which may be detrimental to your health. They also work only within a range of 2 meters, provided that there’s no breeze.
10. Discover neem oil
With your physical environment under control, there are some steps you can take to limit your personal vulnerability to mosquitoes. For mosquito repellents applied directly to the body, select products containing neem.
The antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties of neem oil have been recognized for centuries. The product is extracted from the seeds and leaves of an evergreen tree which grows in India.
According to cited research at the Malaria Institute in India, the addition of neem to kerosene lamps in a 1 % concentration resulted in a significant drop in the number of mosquitoes as well as in the number of malaria cases.
Mixed with coconut oil and applied to the skin, neem offered 96-100% protection against anopheles mosquitoes. Neem is incorporated into agricultural pesticides, repellent sprays and a multitude of natural medicines.
11. Perfume your home with natural oils
Human fragrances are known to attract mosquitoes. Every time you exhale, you release chemicals which combine with CO2 to form your unique level of attractiveness.
Whilst you can counteract this to a limited extent with frequent washing to minimize odors, you can also mask their effect by using perfume extracts from the plants already mentioned.
If you find citronella unbearable, choose lavender or penny royal. Keep a pot of lemon balm at your front door. Rubbing crushed lemon balm leaves across exposed skin before you leave the house will also discourage mosquito landings.
12. Consume garlic
This one is highly disputed. A myth according to some. A truly potent personal mosquito repellent to others.
There is no clearly understood reason for the effectiveness of garlic against mosquitoes. Garlic releases powerful compounds such as allicin and this might be repellent to the insects.
It could also be that the strong smell of garlic overwhelms the mosquito sense of smell, masking other human odors which would otherwise attract them.
Perhaps the garlic your skin exudes simply creates a natural barrier cream which mosquitoes can’t penetrate.
Whilst the precise mechanism is unknown, it is generally accepted that eating garlic or applying garlic based jellies to the body can keep mosquitoes away, minimize bites and offer mosquito bite relief.
Sadly this remedy doesn’t work for me. I freakin love to eat garlic, I reek like a hippie but those darn skeeters always know to find me.
What’s more, this double blind, randomized control trial demonstrates that garlic does not reduce the amount of mosquito bites.
13. Keep lime wedges handy
Whilst there is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of clove studded limes to ward off mosquitoes, many people claim to have experienced success with this recipe.
If you’re in the kitchen and don’t want too many strong smelling odors about you, there can certainly be no harm in rubbing a lime wedge over your hands, arms and face in an attempt to stay bite free. The smell at least is fresh and pleasant.
14. Eat whole grain foods
Laboratory tests have not conclusively proved the suspected link between vitamin B1 and resistance to mosquitoes. The theory is that an excess of water soluble vitamin B1, also called thiamine, is excreted in urine and through the skin via perspiration.
The fact that it finds its way onto the skin gives B1 the potential to deter mosquitoes. There’s only very limited indications this remedy works whereas this study found no effect of vitamin B1 supplementation on mosquito repellency.
Although more research is needed to validate the connection, given that thiamine is not toxic, there can be no harm in consuming extra quantities. Whole grain foods are an excellent source, as are peas, nuts and potatoes.
15. Keep covered
Wearing tight or skimpy clothing increases the chances of a female mosquito finding exposed or penetrable areas of skin to feast on. Keep your clothing loose and voluminous and be sure to cover ankles, wrists, collar bones and other “thin skin” areas.
Received wisdom also says that those long sleeved shirts and trousers should be lightly coloured. Apparently, dark or brightly-colored clothing makes you more visible to mosquitoes.
16. Sleep under a net
A well secured mosquito net which completely covers your entire bed and overflows onto the floor around it is your guarantee of safe and uninterrupted slumber. As with screens and net curtains, check often for holes and tears.
17. Get a bug zapper
Bug zappers have been under scrutiny various sources claiming these devices do not help control your local mosquito population. If you have friends or relatives who own one you will know the pop, crackle, snap, sizzle sounds.
Even though these zappers work indiscriminately – killing all kinds of bugs – after an evening of zapping, you can find heaps of dead mosquitoes in the tray. Sometimes harsh measures are required. Get a good bug zapper if the bloodsuckers are vexing your summer delight.
18. Regularly review your progress
Keeping your home mosquito free is a conscious and ongoing process. But it’s a process worth embarking on for the rewards it will bring you (who isn’t familiar with the hairpulling tendencies after the next buzzing foe terrorizing you in your sleep).
Final note on the best ways to keep mosquitoes out of your home
With mosquito repellents it’s almost like with medicine. What works wonders for some may not work at all for others.
It, for instance, is commonly agreed upon that fans work but still, in some situations the bloodsucking enemy seems to defy the steady flow of wind and still bite people.
Such inexplicable events may be attributed to the fact that so many factors are in play. The type of mosquito, the weather, the scents emitted by nearby plants and flowers, other fauna, factors that determine how mosquitoes find us and more.
Researchers are only beginning to understand how we can better protect ourselves against the deadliest animal on our planet. Until that time we hope you can benefit from these tips.
This list is not exhaustive and you may well be able to add to it as time goes by. If something else works for you, let us know!