Arm Yourself Against Mosquitoes the Environmentally Friendly Way

Myself and the crew at Living Expression Landscapes spend a lot of time outdoors.  The overwhelming emergence of the mosquitoes in our area recently has not gone unnoticed.  Mosquitoes are most active in shade, mornings, and evenings, but basically anywhere there is standing water there will be mosquitoes.  Not only are they a biting nuisance, but they are downright dangerous as the spreading culprit of diseases such as West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Chikungunya, encephalitis, and heartworms in dogs, just to name a few.

Common mosquito sprays tend to be greasy and pore-clogging, so they can make you feel even hotter in our humidity and heat.   So I want to share with you alternative products for, and environmentally friendly methods of deterring mosquitoes:

 1. Decrease Mosquito Population By:

  • Eliminating or treating standing water.  Mosquitoes need stagnant water to reproduce. No standing water means no mosquitoes.  If you have unavoidable standing water on your property, then see #2 below.
  • Support mosquito-eating birds and animals.
  • Clean out underbrush and debris in gutters.

2. Mosquito Dunks - "Kills Mosquitoes Before They're Old Enough To Bite" 

*IF YOU HAVE ANY STANDING WATER ON YOUR PROPERTY, THEN THESE ARE A MUST.

  • Kills mosquito larvae before they become adults.  
  • For use in standing water such as ditches, bird baths, puddles, fish ponds, animal drinking troughs, etc.  These are safe to pets, children, and the environment. 
  • Each dunk covers a 100 square feet of water regardless of depth for 30 days or more, and safely degrades completely.  
  • Natural, organic mosquito control with no poisonous chemical.
  • Unused and dry dunks retain their potency indefinitely. Alternate wetting and drying will not reduce their effectiveness.

3. Skeeter Screen Patio Egg

The Skeeter Screen Patio Egg is an easy, safe, and effective way to help deter mosquitoes and other biting insects from your patio and other outdoor living areas.  Use this together with mosquito-repellling plants outdoors.

  • Its flameless
  • Works by soaking the pleasantly floral scented oil into the egg, and natural air currents radiate the fragrance in all directions, which bugs hate.
  • Simply set it or hang it anywhere and it lasts for a couple of weeks before you have to fill it up again.

4. Bat Houses - Attract the Skeeter Eater

Attract bats to your property by installing a bat house and your bat-tenants will pay you back with some wonderful benefits: 

  • Insect-eating bats consume tremendous quantities of night-flying insects, including mosquitoes and many other damaging and annoying pests.

- Each insect-eating bat will consume about half its weight in bugs each night!

- Pregnant or nursing mothers of some bat species will consume up to their body weight in insects each night.

 

  • Despite their reputation as creepy little creatures, bats are actually  are among the most gentle and beneficial of all mammals.

- The idea that they land in your hair or suck your blood is just bad Hollywood myths!  (Only three species in Latin America feed on blood after inflicting small bite wounds).

- Their risk of exposure to rabies is as much as any mammal, such as raccoons or dogs.

- Bats are shy and reclusive animals. If you see one on the ground or see it in the daylight, it probably is sick or injured, so don't touch it.  But in the rare chance a person is bit, then seek medical attention as thousands of people are successfully vaccinated each year after being bitten by an animal that may have rabies.

 

  • If you're thinking about installing a bat house, consider these tips:

- Place bat house on the sunny side of the house where it gets six to eight hours of sunlight a day.  Bats like warm temperatures, so the top of the box should be painted a dark color to absorb sunlight.

- Bats need room to swoop in and drop out of the house, so place the house at least 12 feet off the ground, and at least 20 feet from branches.

- Bat houses installed on buildings or poles are easier for bats to locate, have greater occupancy rates and are occupied two and a half times faster than those mounted on trees.

- If there are no insects due to the use of pesticides, you will not likely have bats.  If you can, leave hollow or dead trees in the landscape since they are good food sources for insects and shelter for bats and other wildlife.

- Maintain a water source. Bats swoop to drink, so they need a relatively large pool of water, such as a stream or pond. They will drink from swimming pools, but chlorine is not good for them.

- The Triple Chamber Bat House from Lone Star Woodcraft is one example of a BCI certified (Bat Conservation International) bat house, and can accommodate about 300 bats.  Here is a full list of bat house vendors that are BCI certified for Texas: http://www.batcon.org

5. Dragonflies - Mother Nature's Mosquito Control

They don't bite, but they do eat all flying insects.  They are a really good bug to have around, so don't kill them.  Dragonflies use their legs as a basket to scoop up flying insects. feeding on mosquitoes, gnats, flies, swarming ants, swarming termites…just about any flying insect small enough for them to catch.  In fact, they can eat as many as 300 mosquitoes a day!

6. Purple Martin Houses

Puma1 by Amy Evenstad/CC BY
Puma1 by Amy Evenstad/CC BY

There are many benefits to consider in becoming a "landlord" to the Purple Martin including:

•  They are agile in-flight hunters, consuming vast quantities of insects, including mosquitoes!

•  Only bird species totally dependent on human supplied nest boxes.

* We are fortunate to have large numbers of purple martins in the Houston area.  For more detailed information on this fascinating and beneficial bird see our blog dedicated entirely to the Purple Martin.

7. Plants to Deter Mosquitoes

citronella by Ann Fuster/CC BY
citronella by Ann Fuster/CC BY

There are several plants beyond just Citronella that you can have around your yard and patio that deter mosquitoes.  Read all about it in our recent blog.

 

8. NATURALS Lemon Blossom & Basil Juicy Moisture Hand & Body Lotion

 

Though this lotion by Avon isn't advertised as a mosquito repellent, I've noticed they don't bite me when I'm wearing this, and so I've used it for years.  It must have something to do with the fact that lemony scents are used in commercial bug repellents, and basil is one of the many natural bug repellents.  It smells great, moisturizes my skin, and it's a whole lot better than spraying potentially toxic ingredients like DEET on my skin.

9. Avon SKIN SO SOFT BUG GUARD Plus PICARIDIN

Picaridin is an effective alternative ingredient to DEET (has neurotoxicity concerns) and bugs stay far away from you.  This Avon product has light, clean, non-greasy feel, is water-proof and also a sunblock.  There are different product versions to choose from, such as having light fragrance or fragrance free, infused with vitamin E, aloe vera, and extra sunblock strengths; can be purchased in different forms such as aerosol sprays, pump sprays, lotions, and wipes.