Warm days bring some of the best moments of summer, and after a long year away from family and friends, we’re all looking forward to evenings spent around the fire pit, patio swing, or outdoor kitchen. But all too often, mosquitoes will crash the party—and they’re more than just a nuisance.
“Mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous arthropods on the planet because of their ability to vector a long list of dangerous diseases to people and animals,” says Mike Bentley, staff entomologist at the National Pest Management Association. He points out that mosquitoes can develop from egg to adult in as little as seven to eight days during the warm months.
“That means backyards can serve as ideal breeding grounds and populations can get out of hand fast if intervention isn’t taken,” he says.
This summer, don’t live under a mosquito net. Take some early measures to ensure a mosquito-free season, by following these tips from the experts.
Eliminate mosquitoes’ hiding places
To make your backyard less inviting, it’s best to start by getting rid of anything that can attract or house mosquitoes.
“Avoid having lots of tall grass and wooded areas, as these can serve as hiding places. Also, mosquitoes tend to reside in yard debris when they seek shelter,” says Thomas Harbut, general manager and corporate trainer at Mosquito Squad. “Eliminate leaf litter by cleaning up around lawn edges, mow tall grass areas, and keep your lawn short.”
It’s also a good idea to clean after summer storms, when lots of brush and leaves are scattered about and can serve as hiding places or breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
“Adult mosquitoes prefer to rest in shady, humid areas that offer protection from direct sunlight and predators. In a typical backyard, these resting sites can include shrubs or dense vegetation, under decks and patios, or under eaves,” says Bentley.
Pay attention to which plants attract or repel mosquitoes
Your garden could be responsible for drawing mosquitoes to your yard, so be sure you know which plants to keep and which to remove.
“Because mosquitoes are so attracted to water and moisture, the plants that typically attract them have similar qualities,” says Harbut. “The list includes waterlilies, water hyacinths, water lettuce, taro, papyrus, and bamboo.”
Harbut says many mosquito-repelling plants come from the mint family, such as catmint or catnip, horsemint, lemon balm, bee balm, and peppermint. Some other culinary herbs have mosquito-repelling qualities, including rosemary, basil, mint, sage, lavender, various thymes, and hyssop.
“You can place these plants outside or even in window boxes or around doors to discourage the mosquitoes from flying inside,” says Harbut. “Rubbing these plants on your skin will also repel mosquitoes for a short time, but they are most effective if you extract the oils and use them that way.”
Eliminate standing water
A single mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs in water, Harbut says. So any standing water, especially after a storm, can be a problem.
“Immature mosquitoes—eggs, larvae, and pupae—require stagnant water to develop into adults, and they only need about a bottle cap full of water to complete their life cycle,” says Bentley.
Common backyard culprits are clogged gutters or ditches, or household items that can hold water, such as children’s toys, pet food or water dishes, birdbaths, or old tires.
Getting rid of these sites can be as simple as removing the items, or emptying and refreshing water every five to seven days.
Harbut says cleaning and disinfecting your pool by running the filter and chlorinating on a regular basis will help hinder the growth of mosquito larvae.
Know when to call the pros
“If you are experiencing such high levels of mosquito bites that you have become discouraged from spending time in your yard, or if you visibly notice swarms of mosquitoes on a daily basis, it is time to call the pros,” says Harbut.
If your mosquito infestation is not taken care of, you can put yourself—and your guests—in serious danger. Depending on your location in the U.S., mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, La Crosse virus, or Eastern equine encephalitis virus. Some of these viruses have no vaccine or antiviral treatment available, so experts say it is important to maximize your prevention methods.
“Pest control professionals are trained to identify ideal breeding sites and to develop a comprehensive mosquito management program tailored to your home,” says Bentley.