Coping With Mosquitoes: What Works and What Doesn’t

Mosquitoes are one of the more annoying pests of summer. (See our August 7 post for an up close and personal look at this backyard BBQ killjoy.) Everybody has a favorite remedy for keeping mosquitoes under control. Home store shelves are loaded with products that promise quick and effective relief. Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

  • Despite diehard supporters the holistic approach doesn’t work. In scientific tests vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, incense, etc. have not been found to have any effect on mosquitoes.
  • Want to try the natural approach? If your climate will support them, your best bet is to import large numbers of dragonflies which eat prodigious amounts of mosquitoes. Some people think that bats and purple martins can control mosquitoes, but though they eat a lot of insects, only 1% of their diet is mosquitoes.
  • Despite that delightful sizzle that lets you know another bug has hit the dust, bug zappers kill a lot of bugs and moths, but few mosquitoes. Light doesn’t attract mosquitoes. You may actually be killing the bugs that eat them!
  • Newer mosquito traps emit chemical attractants that mimic a mammal’s scent, drawing blood-sucking female mosquitoes to their doom. While effective in killing large numbers of the blood suckers, whether you’ll feel any relief will depend among other factors on the size and species of the mosquito population in your area. Developed for scientific research, to date these devices haven’t been useful in mosquito control.
  • Are you a traditionalist? Citronella candles and torches have long been used to repel mosquitoes. The insects don’t care for their perfume. If you’re close to the candles and the mosquito population in your yard is low, they will provide some relief and keep a small area relatively mosquito free. Their actual effect is easily dissipated by space, wind and the determination of the insects, but citronella can provide some relief, even if much of it is psychological.
  • DEET is still your best choice. Topical insecticides containing DEET will repel mosquitoes.

Next time: What to do when mosquitoes are bugging you.