Top Tips for Mosquito Control

Plagued by skeeters? PSP members have tips to keep your yard clear so that you can hang outdoors without unwittingly turning yourself into a feast.

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Key takeaways:

- Many recommend removing standing water, but there’s also evidence that NYC mosquitos do not breed in water and therefore this is less of an issue than you may think.

- Thermocells can help.

- Fans can help.

- Bug spray and treatments for your soil/drains can help.



Questions over the years on our groups about mosquito control:


“Looking for help with mosquito issues in a backyard. Anyone have experience and a recommendation for an expert to help?”


Members recommend…


“I use fogger carefully about an hour before we go out back and keep a couple fans going to keep them at bay. I use a ‘natural’ Cutter spray when we are out back. Try to ensure no standing water collects anywhere. Unfortunately it’s really hard to contain them.”




“The only thing that ever seems to have made a detectable difference for us is the well-known advice to relentlessly, obsessively eliminate every bit of standing water you possibly can (and in neighbors' gardens too if possible). Rainwater collecting in watering-cans or in kids' water tables, everything…”




“I am not an expert, but the widely recognized rule #1 is that standing water, even a thimble full, is your sworn enemy. Become obsessed with removing it, especially after it rains. When we are hanging out at dusk we have had good luck with a few citronella candles; they work as advertised. Also, we have concluded the risks of using DEET bug spray are overstated and use it when the mosquitos do come out, but others

feel differently.”




“If you want to just sit outside with some friends, honestly an oscillating fan does a decent job keeping them away. They're not great in the wind and something about a fan throws off their scent too. But not a practical solution for all the time/using the whole yard, just if you have a few people over.”




“Eliminating standing water and tall grass is key, but our neighbors on both sides of us are not diligent about that at all, so there's only so much you can do. I tried the Biomonde organic spraying service for a month or so, but it didn't work. Those bug zapping rackets are fun, but won't put a serious dent in the population, so I've been using fans + DEET.”




“To my great surprise, these Thermacell burners actually work. I spent most of last summer working from my backyard, with two of these running I’m mosquito free, without them I’m covered in bites. You have to let them run for 10-20 min before they are effective, and I have a tendency to forget to turn them off when I go inside (thus burning through the expensive refills faster than I should), but as long as I actually use them right, they do work.”




“My only addition is to make sure that the problems are really mosquitos. In the Northeast, we have 3-4 major pests. The common housefly, mosquitos and gnats.  Fruit flies are also a pest, but I do not think they bite. Gnats are smaller and their bite isn't as bad, but you might see whole colonies of gnats flying in your grass. Gnats like dead matter, like leaves etc.”




“Second the use of fans and these Thermacells.


They are a little more beefy than the one posted earlier. 


Also you need to make sure there aren’t wet mulchy areas and treat your beds and drains with these types of product: Mosquito Bits.”




“+1 on Thermocell and Off backyard mosquito lamp. These two brands are working great in a hardcore infested Brooklyn backyard, just make sure to light them on 30 min before.”




“Just sharing that we had a landscaper who does a lot of backyards in Brooklyn and is fairly knowledgeable about the whole yard ecosystem. Her opinion is that standing water is not actually a problem for a lot of NYC mosquito issues because we mostly have tiger mosquitoes, which don’t really breed or lay eggs in water. Her take is that the bigger problem is a lack of airflow, which otherwise at least prevents mosquitoes from being able to hover in one place, mainly because yards are all enclosed.”



Great write-up from a member on mosquito repellent ideas, pros and cons:


“I'm a professional ecologically minded horticulturist and I can speak to a few of these and make recommendations. We also have a back yard overrun with mosquitoes and it makes the space unlivable. 


The mosquitoes we all hate are Asian Tiger Mosquitoes. They're invasive, came to the States on old tires and have really gotten much worse in the past decade. They're active during the day, when our native mosquitoes are not, and they're FAR smarter, faster, and more aggressive. They will also keep biting and biting, as you've probably found out. They have black and white striped legs.


Bug zappers: bad idea. They kill everything. Moths, pollinators, things that eat mosquitoes. And they barely work. There's science on this if you'd like me to send it around.


Bat houses: a nice idea. I don't know anyone who's had bats move in, but why not keep trying?


Purple martin houses: they want to live in the middle of fields. NYC is not a good place to attract them.


Spraying: I don't like sprays. The chemical ones are toxic and kill all the beneficial insects as well. I don't know about an organic spray that's been proven to work, but maybe it exists? I'm wary. 


Cutter bug spray: awesome stuff. Works as well as deet for us. 


Fans: work but not against Asian Tigers who will avoid the wind and find ways to get to you.


Yard clean up: This is absolutely the best strategy. But you don't need a ‘tidy’ yard, you just need a dry one. The Asian Tigers can breed in a bottle cap so any puddle, plant pot saucer, etc is a great place for them. In our yard, it's our (amazing gardening) neighbor who is the culprit. He has pots everywhere. But again, there's no need to limit planting or furniture. They look for moisture. 


My personal favorite magical solution that I've yet to try: the ovollinta. This is a trap that researchers made in latin america to trap a closely related mosquito to the Asian Tiger, and it worked so well that they recommend everyone make them to reduce populations. I've been trying to get my husband to help me make one for years but he always says that cutting tires is harder than it looks. Manufacturing thousands of these seems like a great idea for a non-profit, or at least a community project. We could reach out to the DEC and see if we can reduce the number of mosquitoes in one block by putting the traps in a bunch of back yards. That could generate enough media to make everyone want one and we could really knock the problem back. If anyone has time to take this on (ha ha, yeah right) let me know and I'll help you through it.


How to Build a Mosquito Trap From an Old Tire

Ovillanta DIY video