Natural Ways to Rid a Yard of Mosquitoes

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Mosquitoes are well-known party spoilers, and they spread disease to boot. So it's in the interest of you, your family and anyone who comes to visit to discourage them from coming around. You probably won't get rid of every last one, but employing a strategy of reducing attractants and actively repelling the insects can make a noticeable difference in the mosquito population. As added insurance, applying a natural insecticide to your arms and legs will discourage stragglers from lighting on you.

Less Standing Water

Mosquitoes need water in which to lay their eggs, and they don't need much. For example, a small pool in the folds of a plastic tarp is an effective breeding ground. An important part of a mosquito-control program is to eliminate as much standing water as you can.

  • Invert barrels, pots and other containers on your property, and let the water drain
  • Put a cover on the plastic pool when children aren't using it. If they don't show any interest in it, put it away for the season. Keep your main swimming pool covered when you aren't using it.
  • Look for low spots in the lawn or garden where water tends to collect after the sprinklers have run. Find a way to drain these spots -- perhaps by digging a drainage trench or installing a French drain.
  • Keep water moving when you can't drain it. If you have an outdoor pond, install a waterfall feature. Stocking the pond with mosquito-loving fish can convert the pond from a breeding ground to a mosquito trap. 
  • Use mosquito dunks to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in ponds and other water features. Their active ingredient is _Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis,_ a naturally occurring bacteria that is fatal to mosquitoes but harmless to humans and most animals, including fish.

A Simple Mosquito Trap

Standing water attracts mosquitoes, and you can use this fact to your advantage if your intention is to kill the pesky insects. Simply add a small amount of liquid dish soap -- 1 tablespoon weekly can treat a barrel of water -- and add some ambient light to attract the bugs. Dish soap lowers the surface tension of water. So when the mosquitoes land to lay eggs, they'll drown.

Mosquito-Repellent Plants

A number of plants contain mosquito-repellent chemicals, and many grow in temperate climates.

  • Citronella grass -- Native to Sri Lanka and parts of Southeast Asia, citronella grass (_Cymbopogon nardus_) is rich in citronella oil, a natural mosquito repellent that works by masking other odors that attract the insects. Cultivate citronella grass outdoors if you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12, where it grows as a perennial plant.
  • Lemon grass -- Equally rich in citronella oil, lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) survives outdoors all year in USDA zones 10 through 11
  • Lemon balm -- People who live in cooler climates can plant lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and perennial in USDA zones 3 through 9. It contains a compound similar to citronella oil that repels insects, and you can crush its leaves to make a topical repellent for your skin. Lemon balm also makes a soothing tea.

Mosquito-Repellent Candles

If you don't live in a climate suitable for growing citronella or lemon grass, you can still avail yourself of the benefits of citronella oil by burning citronella candles. Deploy small citronella candles around your patio, or use large, pot-sized ones to create an extended safe zone in your back yard.

Natural Insect Repellent

Lemon eucalyptus oil is an effective substitute for the mosquito repellent DEET, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DEET is highly effective, but it's a somewhat noxious repellent. Lemon eucalyptus oil, on the other hand, is a natural product with a scent considered pleasant, and it's widely available. Just rub some on your skin before going outside, and reapply it as needed to keep mosquitoes away.

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