Mosquitoes generate the most ire of any of the summer insects. We can tolerate insects that nibble leaves and disfigure fruit. But when the insect is dining on us, the atmosphere of tolerance quickly becomes strained.
There are plenty of products and devices that claim to control mosquitoes. Which ones work and which ones are nothing but a tax on ignorance?
Ultrasonics- The copywriter who dreamed up the ad for the ultrasonic mosquito repeller deserves a special reward. A kick in the pants from the thousands who have bought the useless devices that generate the sound of the mosquito-dreaded dragonfly would be appropriate. Mosquitoes do not have ears. They do not hear train whistles, 747’s or approaching dragonfly wings. The only use I have found for these gadgets is once when I managed to kill two mosquitoes simultaneously by slapping my arm with it.
Garlic- From spook-repeller to heart medicine, garlic seems to be the cure for what ails you. Unfortunately, when subjected to scientific investigation, garlic has yet to show any mosquito repellency. Sure, some folks swear by it: “I take a garlic pill every day and I never get bit!” But perhaps the same claim could be made for the garlic preventing annoying phone calls that day. No convincing evidence has shown that garlic has any effect on mosquitoes.
Citrosa Plant- It’s true that some plant oils, like citronella, repel mosquitoes. Unfortunately, the citrosa plant may smell like citronella but it does not (BI)contain(EI) citronella. The citrosa is actually a scented geranium with a pleasant smell that does not affect mosquitoes.
Citronella Smoke- Citronella can reduce the number of bites – but only for people who stand very close to the candle or Tiki torch. If you enjoy smelling like smoke and risking a clothes fire, smoke-generating mosquito products might be for you.
Bug Zappers- It is a macabre pleasure to listen to insects frying in an electronic bug killer. However, the bugs who meet their death are usually not mosquitoes. Entomologists found that 90 percent of the zapped insects were beneficial or harmless creatures which normally are eaten by birds in your yard. The choice of having fewer songbirds versus having a negligible effect on biting bugs seems easy to make. A recent report also raises the specter of germs being spread when insects are vaporized. Those AKa-zzzzzzts you hear in your zapper might be the sound of deadly germ bomblets being exploded. Not many people would picnic downwind of a zapper if they could see the germs that are deposited nearby.
They Work but…
Skin Lotions- Lotions that contain citronella and other plant oils do repel mosquitoes. The question, though, is their effectiveness compared to other products. DEET (the active chemical in many mosquito sprays) is very effective when sprayed lightly on the skin. Bath oils and other lotions range in effectiveness from 10 percent to 80 percent as good as DEET.
Deet- This chemical has been used for more than 50 years and is generally considered safe. It should not be slathered onto skin; a light spray works fine. A product containing 35 percent DEET is sufficient for adults. Use 10 percent sprays on children.
Foggers- Mosquitoes are not hard to kill with an insecticide. The problem is getting the chemical into contact with the bug. The best way is to use a special fogger (not a garden sprayer!) to mist the insecticide into nearby shrubbery and shady plants an hour before you plan to entertain outdoors. Since mosquitoes can fly into your space without landing, you won’t get perfect control but you’ll be able to enjoy your patio in peace for a while.
Removing Standing Water- No water, no mosquitoes: it’s that simple. Check for and drain stagnant water in plant saucers, gutters, discarded party cups, drain outlets from air-conditioners, plastic wading pools, dog dishes, soft drink cans, plastic bags, old tires, birdbaths, standing water in tire ruts, stumps, tree holes, puddles hidden under English ivy and pools left by flooded streams. If you are getting bitten, your neighbor is too. Organize a neighbor-to-neighbor hunt for standing water.
If you can’t drain the water, use products like Mosquito Dunks ™ or Mosquito Bits ™ which contain a disease spore (Bacillus thuringiensis)that is deadly to mosquito larvae but harmless to humans, fish or pets.