Dear PoP – Mosquito Preparation

“Dear PoP,

The street I live on is absolutely INFESTED with mosquito’s. I was told by a long-time resident that this has just been getting worse every year. I have a pretty bad allergic reaction to mosquito bites and last summer it was to the point that I could not even run from my car parked right out front of my house to the door without getting bitten at least twice. I thought about paying to have the area sprayed before they come this year, but since I live on a street of rowhouses, would that even help since the houses that are not sprayed are so close by? Do you or anyone else know if there is anything that can be done so I can actually enjoy our front porch this year?”

Every year I fear their arrival. I have found nothing works for me except a full dosage of leaded bug spray or skin so soft. I look like Willie from the Simpsons after he says “grease me up!” (minus all the muscles of course). Aside from tipping over standing water I don’t what else to do. Except hope we have more bats this year… Have you guys learned any new methods to avoid/mitigate this pestilence?

50 Comment

  • cooking oil floated on top of the water in the drain pipes front and back is a supposed help.

  • Move to New Mexico, or possibly Spain.

  • I’ve heard putting a dryer sheet in your pocket helps? I’m going to try it this year.

  • Make sure your gutters are clear. And consider planting citronella geraniums.

  • I am hoping by putting out more bird seed I might attract hungry birds that like Mosquitos as well.

    This seems to be a big problem in our area, day and/or night.

    • this is a good idea in theory, but unfortunately, the kinds of birds that eat seed are not the same as the kinds that eat insects. Instead you might want to try attracting bats with a bat house.

  • Nets, high-percentage deet and smoke coils are your only hope, in that order.

    Skin So Soft will not help you. Citronella will not help you. And bats will *definitely* not help you.

    • yep. i concur with two years in the mekong delta and a bout of dengue backing it up. i’d say wearing long pants and long sleeves helps, but most in DC probably wouldn’t want that in the summer (though totally normal in some hotter, more humid places). fans can help, too.

  • The Off! fans work. I’ve used them when visiting family in Jamaica. Jamaica has more mosquitoes that DC residents can imagine.

  • Can you install a ceiling fan in your porch? Or even just haul a stand fan outside? Anything to create a stiff enough wind that the little bastards can’t land on you.

  • Last year, a couple minutes before hanging out in my backyard, I would spray the vegetation and vines where the mosquitoes seemed to congregate with Orange Guard:

    It seemed to work pretty well temporarily. Combining that with some candles took care of most of the nuisance.

  • last year, it got so bad in our yard that we actually bought one of those bottles of pesticide (less than $15) at home depot that hook up to your hose, and sprayed our entire backyard, as well as the front porch and garden. i hated to use it because of how bad it is for you, and i had to keep the dog out of the yard for a few days, but it worked really well. a lot better than i anticipated. we live in a row house, too, and it still worked even though our neighbors didnt spray. yeah, we had to reapply a few weeks later but we were actually able to enjoy our backyard in the summer for a change.

    • totally agree with you in reference to this product, but you are right the downside is the dog can’t use the backyard for a few days.

  • This is a good resource.

    My favorite is eating bananas. It works for me

  • Reminds me of my 85yo uncle in Greece who STILL douses himself in vinegar every night before he sits on the balcony. It’s pretty intense initially, but it’s not as offensive after a few mins..
    Still can’t bring myself to try it though.

  • After rave reviews, I tried using a device last year called “Mosquito Magnet”, a rather expensive contraption that simulates the heat and respiration of a human by burning a small amount of propane to attract mosquitos and then trap them. It supposedly would clear an area of 15,000 sq ft of mosquitos. The results: I could kill more mosquitos by swatting my leg a single time than it killed in a day. If anyone else was considering it, don’t waste your time or money. Learned an interesting bit of trivia along the way though: the mosquitos most prevalent in the area are “Asian Tigers”, a species that has been moving up from the South over the last decade or so. They are more active durring the day than their native brethren and they do not respond to the atractant octenol that many “attract and destroy” mosquito devices rely on. Best thing you can do is hunt out pools of standing water, no matter how small. Alley trash cans, in particular are a problem. Drill holes in the bottoms so that they drain after a rain storm.

    • I forgot to add that my plan this year to hope that the bat house I’ve set up will attract a few little brown bats. Hopefully will be a permanent neighborhood-wide imrovement as a single brown bat can eat up to 1,000 flying insects a night (and they love mosquitos).

    • I understand that you can buy a special asian tiger mosquito bait for those contraptions.

    • +1. Got one as a gift. One tank of propane lasted about a month, and in that time seemed to kill 12-14 mosquitoes.

    • Thats too bad that it didn’t work for you. I had a mosquito magnet while living in Florida (MORE mosquitos there than DC if you can believe it…we were living in a swampy area), and it worked GREAT! We could actually sit outside on our patio at dusk! Shocking! The trap bag always had hundreds of mosquitos in it. I dunno, maybe the DC mosquitos are more savvy and aren’t fooled by the magnet than their southern country brethren.

      • ah

        That’s because in DC the they have asian tiger mosquito moms who teach them how to be ruthless and bloodsucking, and make them practice at it until they get it right.

        • +3 on the mosq. magnet contraption. Or maybe I should say “-3”. It stinks. We got the special Asian tiger bait…nothing…

          my wife still insists that we must have done *something* wrong with it. it just doesn’t work in our confined conditions.

          My buddy is a Navy Entomologost, and he said that they’ve used them quite successfully to trap mosquitos for west nile assessment. So they can work, just not, apparently, in DC.

  • Put out a few humming bird feeders. They eat mosquitos.

  • anon. gardener

    We used the super toxic home depot spray mentioned about. It worked well. We also used a less toxic spray based on geraniol and something else – smelled lemony-rosey and actually worked okay. I think I got that at home depot too. Our back gutter drains to a hole in the yard that is constant filled with water – i bought mosquito dunks and threw one down the hole occasionally. We also cut back all the junk vegetation along the fence, and soaked whatever we couldn’t reach with pesticide. all this kept the back yard mosquitos to a minimum.

    planting lots of herbs seems to help too – i have a lot in the front garden, and the mosquitoes aren’t nearly as bad there.

  • Be very careful with pesticides, and read the labels. Never use with puppies.

    Here’s some more information about health problems they can cause with dogs.

  • You can buy granules that you sprinkle over your yard and spray with a hose – they are non-toxic and work by emitting a scent mosquitos don’t like. They work well. You can buy it at most garden centers. It will work for the night if you’re having a party – not a long term solution as it’s too $$ to use every day. But at least you get an evening of peace!

    I found that where I lived a huge source of mosquitos was the sewer next to my house. It would fill with so much garbage from people littering and throwing trash into it, that it was always full of stagnant water (and the intersection next to my house flooded whenever it rained), perfect for breeding mosquitoes. If you have this problem it’s worth calling a couple times a summer and asking for it to get cleaned out – I called 311 and they really came.

  • This is on my wish list for this summer:

    It has excellent reviews on Amazon. Anyone tried it locally?

    • notlawd

      I got excited for a minute at this, but it says its not to be used within 25ft of human activity and specifically should not be mounted to a house. The Skeeterbag looks promising as well, but that’s only good for when you are sitting outside. I need something for just coming in and out of the house. I have a dog, so I am scared of the toxic spray, but I may just have to try that.

  • I have had moderate (but noticable) success using Mosquito Bits/dunks. You can get them on line pretty cheaply or at local hardware stores. They contain a bacteria that kills the larvae.

    You must keep all gutters free flowing, empty or dispose of any containers. I put them in the crooks of trees and stalk my neighbors yards with the Bits (I clean their gutters, too). And treat the uncovered supercans in your alley. These things can breed in a tablespoon of water, so prevention is key.

    There is a lot of info on Mosquito Dunks on various EPA websites. It is safe for pets and vegetable gardens.

    Also call the West Nile Virus Center for treatment of catch basins in your area. They can issue warning/citations for neighbors who don’t keep up, too.

  • Plant night-blooming jasmine!! Smells wonderful AND keeps the mosquitos away.

    Might attract snakes, though, so make sure you invest in a pet mongoose.

  • I find a thorough application of Deep Woods OFF! does the trick. On a related note, I always chuckle whenever I see people sitting around a citronella candle, since the scent actually attracts mosquitoes, not repels them (the idea being that you put them where they can draw the mosquitoes away from humans).

    • I chuckle when someone gets so high and mighty on a blog and ends up being wrong.

      Jeong-Kyu KIM, Chang-Soo KANG, Jong-Kwon LEE, Young-Ran KIM, Hye-Yun HAN, Hwa Kyung YUN, Evaluation of Repellency Effect of Two Natural Aroma Mosquito Repellent Compounds, Citronella and Citronellal, Entomological Research 35 (2), 117–120, 2005

  • We resorted to the toxic spray last summer, after months of trying to avoid it, but it got so bad around here that we couldn’t get our five month old from the car to the house (or vice versa) without her getting bitten (all over her face), which meant a miserable baby up all night clawing at the bites on her face. After that happened a few times I was over it. I feel terrible about using that nasty stuff but… it really helped. I might try the organic/friendly/natural version this year, even though I think you have to apply it a ton.

    We put dunks and bits wherever we can (our rain barrels) and those help. We have the skeeter bag and a box fan but the mosquitoes laughed at that contraption. The box fan was too weak to catch more than about five slow mosquitoes, even on high. If you want to use a fan to blow mosquitoes away or suck them into a bag, you need a ridiculously powerful one, one that makes so much noise that you probably don’t want to be outside around it anyway.

    • notlawd

      Which spray did you use that helped? Do you live in a row house? if it worked for you even if the neighbors didn’t spray I just may try it.

  • While we’re talkin about pests, anybody know how to control those gi-normous roaches that run around the city sidewalks, brick walls etc at night. They run through my yard like they are payin rent. Those guys plus the mosquitoes make for some wild stoop hangin’ all summer long.

    By the way, those Asian Tiger dudes can even breed in moist areas in the leaf litter and soil. Removing standing water wont solve the prob, sadly.

  • Best advice a friend of mine gave me 4 years ago regarding mosquitos: Garlique pills. The first week, take one in the morning and one at night, then after that just one a day. The mosquitos will leave you alone, and Garlique doesn’t seep through your pores to make you smell like garlic.
    It’s a win-win.

    Although, as a basement dweller, I am looking for solutions to keep my front and back doors free from the thriving mosquito and housefly festival of fun they were last year. I’m going to try the non-toxic vinegar and water method, as I have a dog who likes to live 😀

  • Off! on your person and dry ice in a bucket on the other side of your yard. The Off keeps mosquitoes away from you, and the dry ice gives off a ton of Co2 which attracts the mosquitoes away. Works on regular and tiger mosquitoes.

  • I think I used to live in the basement there! Columbia road? Anyways, the mosquitos there were the WORST.

    Good peoples tho. Neighbors got really cranky when the house threw parties.

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