How do you solve a problem like mosquitos?

asian tiger mosquito

Come on, really?

In between throwing down pearls of wisdom yesterday, I went outside to mow the lawn. (I am truly a renaissance man, aren’t I?) While I was clearing out the mower, I looked down and saw about eight mosquitos enjoying a delicious lunch on my tab, so to speak.

Now I’m willing to live in a mosquito’s world during July and August, but it’s May, give me a break. Already?

Over the years I have spent untold bundles of cash on containing/killing/distracting/confusing the little bastards, yet my arms and legs always end up looking like a teenager’s face all summer long.

Despite all my efforts, I’ve only tapped the tip of the mosquito battling arsenal.

So now, I turn to you. Organic, chemical, thermonuclear–doesn’t matter. What are your best/favorite/most effective mosquito battling techniques?

120 Comment

  • I’m very curious to see the answers to this one. The mosquitoes at my house make it impossible to enjoy my backyard in the summer. I have no standing water and keep my yard very tidy (though my neighbors don’t.) What can be done?

  • Those Off! wipes seem to work pretty well.

  • I’ve got a hyphenated advective and single noun answer: screened-in porch.

  • Buy one of those things that burns propane.

    Apparently, mosquitoes hate the smell of burning propane and stay away. I know a few golf courses that place these strategically around the courses and it works.

    I think each unit covers about an acre. So, your neighbors will love you too.

    • Nope, wrong. Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 and thermal radiation — that’s how they find mammals to bite. What golf courses use are mosquito traps that use a small propane flame to generate a plume of CO2 to attract them, and then a fan that keeps them in the trap until they dehydrate and die. All other answers below involving mosquitoes not liking the smell of propane are also wrong, though I suppose a big gas flame and huge CO2 plume like a grill could draw them away.

    • Burning more fossil fuels ought to be a last-ditch answer, especially considering the other options.

      There are several brands of eco-friendly sprays and such, none of which I can recall at the moment, of course. I have some at home and they work really well.

      Also, if you’re lucky enough to have a ceiling fan on your porch, set it on high. A steady breeze is a great weapon.

      • Too bad none of the eco-crap works. Get the CO2 trap (but be prepared to spend big $$ to purchase and operate it).

        I have one. They work.

        • The “eco-crap” works for me. Maybe they don’t like my blood, but it works for my wife too, and she gets bit if she even *thinks* about going outside.

          The traps don’t make sense to me. Expensive to run, and you have to burn a ton of propane all day long. Goofy and irresponsible.

          • you burn a tiny amount of propane.

            however the el cheapo propane trap things don’t work. you have to buy the big expensive ones to make a difference.

      • “Burning more fossil fuels ought to be a last-ditch answer”

        Says someone who is sitting in an air-conditioned room.

        • Read it again: “Burning MORE fossil fuels…” In other words, adding to the problem when there are other options.

          At any rate, I have ZERO impact on whether or not my office is air-conditioned.

          • Is your house air conditioned? What’s your electric bill in the summer for indoor comfort? A mosquito trap costs about $20 a month to run, people here are suggesting spending more than that on citronella candles for one house. Citronella candles, by the way, are made of paraffin, which is a petroleum product.

            Just because in this particular case you see the fossil fuels being burned doesn’t mean it’s an energy-inefficient solution.

          • And just because I prefer to not add more fossil fuel burning to my life doesn’t mean that I should go live in cave.

            I try very hard to conserve wherever possible. This includes running AC only when it’s absolutely necessary. Our bills are quite low, in fact. Thanks for asking, though. I appreciate your concern for my family.

            And who the heck is spending $20 a month (or more, as you seem to think) on freakin’ candles?!

            I’ll stop there, because I just realized that I don’t have to justify my life to you.

  • bfinpetworth

    I’m testing out a Skeeterbag right now. So far I see significant improvement while sitting on front porch, but I’m not clear on whether they have really arrived in full force yet.

  • If they get into your house and you have a problem with them biting at night, put dryer sheets in your pillow case — they hate the smell and will stay away.

  • Didn’t we already have this discussion a few weeks ago?

    I use instect repellant. With deet. It’s the only thing that truly repels them (according to entomologists.)

    Skeeter Bag is good for sitting outside. Fans in general keep them away. Skeeter Bag keeps them off of you and collects them. I need to order a new one.

  • If you have standing water that you can’t get rid of (because some a-holes in the complex next door are doing renovation and they left a vat outside that collects water), pouring bleach in it every few days should keep the population down (about half a container every 2-3 days). Certainly long enough to get the Department of Health to take care of the problem.

    • Mosquito dunks ( are a better solution for permanent standing water.

    • Don’t do this. This enters groundwater and storm runoff. It also enters the foodchain when other animals drink from the water. Just pour out the vat and leave a note.

      • Bleach = chlorine, which DC adds a couple bazillion gallons of to the water every year, and which doesn’t stay dissolved in water for very long anyway. Chlorine doesn’t “enter the food chain” the way that a persistent toxin like mercury does. Thanks for playing, though.

    • My front walkway is uneven; whoever poured the concrete (? — it’s painted, but I think it’s concrete underneath) did it in such a way that one section is tilted and water pools in it.

      Until I can get that section of the walkway redone, what would y’all recommend — spraying some bleach on it whenever there’s water there?

      Also (on a tangential note), any idea as to what kind of contractor I would need to re-pour a section of concrete walkway?

      • Maybe I’m not picturing it right, but wouldn’t take a broom and pushing the water into the grass work just fine?

        • I haven’t tried that yet, but the way it’s sloped, it’s not really next to any grass or dirt. (If I’m remembering correctly, there’s kind of a concrete ridge thing next to the sloped section, so to get it into the yard, I’d have to sweep the water _up_ and over the ridge.)

          I could probably sweep it from the top step to the steps below, but I think it would be tricky to sweep it into a place where the water would be absorbed.

          Will give the broom a try, though — thanks for the idea!

          • Even just sweeping it out will help… unless it pools somewhere else, it’ll spread out and evaporate faster

      • It takes about two weeks from egg to adult, so if the water isn’t staying that long don’t worry about it. You’ll see little wriggling larvae about 3/8 inch long after a week or so if mosquitoes are breeding there.

      • just a handyman should be able to level off your concrete.

      • A good temporary solution: dump some sand in there. Worked on an uneven stone walkway I had.

  • I’ve noticed a big difference between our backyard, which faces South, and other friends yards which face North and don’t get as much sun. We use the Cutter or Off wipes and have no problems whatsoever. Our friends can’t even spend a minute out back without getting eaten alive no matter what they do.

  • create a perimeter of citronella burning candles. Also, if you grill with propane, this will help.

    Most of the plants people say work, dont work at all.

  • Chemical for any lasting impact. Otherwise I hear that garlic concentrate works quite well also.

  • Suck it up and use deet. If you’re having a party or something, pytrethrin sprays on plants and surfaces are also an option, though they wash off in water so it’s only a long-term solution if you’re spraying the walls and ceiling of a covered porch or something like that. You have to go to a garden store or something to get pyrethrin, Yard Guard and similar products use different chemicals that are somewhat effective but disperse more quickly. Unfortunately, plants in your yard or on your back porch = mosquito habitat, and while eliminating standing water does a huge amount to keep the population down you’re going to have mosquitoes if you have plants.

    Citronella and other natural repellents don’t work. I grew up in Louisiana, so anyone who wants to argue about that needs to produce documented evidence of having lived in the deep south or the tropics for at least 4 years and spent a lot of that time outdoors. Yankees in Columbia Heights who have never mowed a yard need not apply.

    The only alternative to chemicals is long sleeves, though if you’re going the long sleeves route you can often get away with only applying deet to your shirt collar and hat rather than your skin.

    • Actually, the skeeters will “suck it up.”

    • Documented scientific evidence that citronella works:

      • Statistically significant repellent effect is not the same thing as adequately prevents bites. Thanks for playing, though.

        • They can’t bite you if they aren’t there to bite.

          Nice try though…

          • From the abstract: “Outdoors, citronella diffusers placed 6 m from mosquito traps repelled female mosquitoes by 22%”

            Woo hoo, 22% less bites! Let’s go sunbathing! Again, thanks for playing

          • Thank you for admitting you were misinformed.

          • Misinformed about what exactly? That citronella is inadequate for providing any real protection from mosquitoes. I think you’re confusing “you” and “me.”

      • That article mentions citronella “diffusers”… what’s a diffuser? A coil or something?

        Interesting to see that citronella candles don’t seem to be very effective: “Indoors, the repellency rate of citronella candles was only 14% while the repellency rate of citronella diffusers was 68%. The repellency of geraniol candles was 50% while the diffusers provided a repellency rate of 97%.”

        • A diffuser is just something to aerosolize the oil. Picture one of those bathroom scent devices that sprays out a puff of stinkum every 30 min or whatever.

          A lot of people don’t understand how scented candles work. Burning the citronella isn’t what creates the effect. The point is to liquefy a block of wax that has citronella in it so that the citronella can evaporate/boil off. The flame is just a means to that end, you could just as well use a hot pad.

          Also note that this study appears to concern indoor use.

          • From the abstract: “We determined the degree of personal protection provided by…both indoors and outdoors”

    • I dont understand your reasoning. Sorry that the South is stuck in a cycle of poverty, but you dont have to wear that chip on your shoulder so blatantly.

      You have a lot of mosquitoes in Louisiana. We also have a lot of them here. You dont need to live anywhere else, besides here.

      Maybe all of us yankees up here dont think that lighting a citronella candle on one end of our yard, while mowing the entire yard, will be an effective deterrent to mosquitoes.

      However, citronella does deter mosquitoes. Like I said earlier, you just need to create a perimeter of it.

      • Please don’t let one jackass (who happens to be from Louisiana) with a Southern chip on his shoulder, bring up a whole bunch of South-hating.

        I grew up in Louisiana, too. My whole life. And I’ve mowed a ton of grass, worked on a farm, and spent all kinds of time outdoors.

        Citronela candles work for me, and the eco-friendly sprays work for me.

  • In theory, if a bunch of people on your block get together you could get a professional in to spray. Obviously its expensive. I used the mosquito dunks in any standing water I found in my neighborhood (yes this requires talking with neigbors to get in their backyard) It did really help.

    There are sprays wich you can use to spray bushed and stuff, but they are pretty toxic to birds.

  • LoP, thank you so much for this very timely thread! I was contemplating e-mailing you yesterday on this very subject, while trying not to scratch the 14 bites I received on Saturday. 🙁

    I bought an Off spray the other day but haven’t tried it yet. It claims to kill mosquitoes “on contact.” I was thinking about spraying it in my front yard — every time I’ve attempt to pull up weeds, etc. during the past few days, I get swarmed by mosquitoes.

    Does anyone know if this “kill on contact” spray is suitable for this purpose — can I spray it around the yard and hope to kill any mosquitoes that are flying in the air or resting on the ground??

    I know I’ll have to wear mosquito repellent if I intend to do much gardening, but would this be a workable strategy for trying to reduce the number of mosquitoes that are around in the first place?

  • Do mosquitoes breed in the traps of outside drains?

  • We use fans when the skeeters get bad on our front porch or back deck. A fairly low speed keeps the skeeters at bay, they can’t fly in anything over 1 mph or so.

    This method won’t work too well for gardening and such though…but helps when you are out enjoying a frosty beverage!

  • I grew up out in the country in FL and, if you’ve never been, they’ve got a bit of a mosquito problem down there. These work very well –

  • Please keep in mind that Deet is a very toxic chemical. If you do use it, you should be very careful and use it sparingly. I personally hate the stuff, and would rather get bitten by mosquitoes than put a substance on my skin that can melt plastic (another reason to be careful, especially with high concentration Deet). I grew up in the South and have spent 5+ years teaching and conducting research in the tropics. Although Deet helps, you’ll still get bitten by mosquitoes. Non-toxic solutions such as Skin-So-Soft do work, but not as well as Deet (and yes, there have been scientific tests of the effectiveness of different chemicals). The main thing to do to reduce mosquitoes is to eliminate standing water around your home, and your neighbors. This combined with occasional spraying from the city can take care of the really bad problems. Otherwise, man up and deal with it. Mosquitoes are not that annoying. At least they don’t carry botfly larvae, malaria and other nasty stuff like the tropics.

    • Five types of Encephalitis are transmitted by mosquitoes in the United States, including West Nile. While they are not common, they should be considered.

      Also, Dengue has been found recently in Miami – though extremely rare, maybe 1 or 2 cases, and those may have been brought from further south.

    • “Mosquitoes are not that annoying.” Obviously you aren’t a magnet for them like some of us. I have come away with as many as 40 bites after being outside for only a few minutes. That’s more than “annoying”.

      • Hear, hear. I can’t go from the front door to the car at the curb without getting bitten. And the bites swell into giant welts, turn purple, and take 5-7 days to subside.

        Same for my daughter. If you think mosquitoes “aren’t that annoying” try putting an itchy miserable toddler to bed. I’ve actually had to dose her with benadryl, slather on cortisone, and wrap her in ace bandage to keep her from scratching herself bloody.

    • I also grew up in the South and use 100% DEET for all my outdoor work in the tropics. It may be toxic, but it works. As long I make sure my hands are clean before I eat, I haven’t had any problems. (I might not want to use it if I had pets or kids, though.)

      Another toxic option is to impregnate your clothes in permethrin, like a mosquito net – not ideal for everything, obviously, but it might be a good solution for not-very-nice things worn outside often, like gardening pants. I used treated clothes for fieldwork in the Amazon and it worked like a charm.

      • Please tell me you don’t use 100% straight out of the bottle! That is really gross. You are supposed to mix it with something to dilute it for human usage. I’ve used absolutely no insecticides during my research in the tropics. The best solution for not feeling itchy? Don’t scratch your mosquito bites. I don’t feel very much sympathy for people who complain bitterly about mosquito bites when I’m currently covered in chigger and tick bites: much, much worse.

        • Emmaleigh504

          I disagree. Mosquito bites are way worse for me, just like flea bites may be worse for another person, and chigger bites are worse for you. It depends on how allergic you are to the bite. I’m very sensitive to mosquitoes, some regions even have mosquitoes that I’m even more allergic to (I’m looking at you Marrero), so it’s kind of mean to downplay one person’s problem because you think yours is worse. It’s all relative.

          • If you are allergic, have you tried Benadryl? Have you gone to an allergist or dermatologist? My comments are directed at the vast majority of people who are not allergic. If you were allergic to peanuts and I said how great peanut butter is, would you get pissy because you can’t eat peanut butter? My point here is that mosquito bites are a very minor annoyance (to ALMOST everyone). To dump lots of toxic chemicals in the environment seems like an overreaction to me.

        • You’re starting to piss me off.

          You clearly don’t have the allergy that some of us do, and hooray for you, but don’t think you can act dumb about the very real physical reactions that some people have and get a pass. It’s like recommending an asthmatic just take deeper breaths and stop wheezing, and they’ll feel better.

          In short: shut up about things you don’t understand.

          (And before someone thinks it would be clever to type “angry much” or “wow” or any other internet non-response, yes, I AM angry about this. I have an absolutely brutal reaction to mosquito bites, I’m watching my daughter go through the same thing, and I am sick and tired of hearing “they’re not that bad” or “yeah, everyone hates mosquito bites” or “just don’t think about it and it will stop itching”. Sick and tired.)

          • Emmaleigh504

            I completely agree with you , WDC. It pisses me off when people say they aren’t so bad, and don’t realize mosquito bites can get the size of my hand and last for weeks on me. Yes, it can be very, very bad.

        • “I don’t feel very much sympathy for people who complain bitterly about mosquito bites when I’m currently covered in chigger and tick bites: much, much worse.”

          no surprise, you don’t sound like a sympathetic person. that’s your own issue though, not ours. perhaps you should get that looked at.

          • Agree. For me, mosquito bites itch, burn, enlarge and then bruise before they start to fade. Evidence of a mosquito bite remains on my body for weeks, not days. In short, sunsqhaused’s myopic snark deserves the reaction it’s getting.

  • One of my parents’ neighbors bought some kind of mosquito killing machine that is supposed to clear out an acre’s worth and they swear by it. They were going to get one of their own (I think it was $300 or something, and I’m sure the neighbor got it at Home Depot because he’s a contractor and gets everything there) but the neighbors’ machine does enough for them.

  • I have found that if I hang out with tastier people, the mosquitos will attack them and leave me completely alone. It was one of my ex-husband’s few redeeming qualities. He’d get attacked and bit up by dozens of mosquitos and I would be untouched even though I was standing right next to him.

    Also, Avon’s Skin So Soft is a spray and although not marketed as a mosquito repellant, it seems to work better than any of the repellants.

  • Had enough this year and am getting tri-weekly yard treatments from Mosquito Squad.

  • I hate to admit it but I use Cutter Bug Free Back Yard spray. You hook it to the hose and soak the yard. Its ‘safe’ for dogs but toxic to cats and fish. This stuff works for up to 4-6 weeks (the bottle says 8). I try not to use stuff this toxic but without this treatment my backyard is UNUSABLE in the summer. It contains Permethrin. Yard Guard works well but it is only good for a few hours.

    What has never worked for me are torches or citronella.

  • One thing that I’ve found that’s natural and works better than 100% deet is Buzz Away, which you can find at Whole Foods.

    I spent some time traveling in Sri Lanka and used 100% deet and still got a lot of bites. I went to Senegal for 6 weeks last year and used Buzz Away and it worked much better than the deet and I didn’t have to worry about washing my hands after applying it or touching my skin where I had applied it. They still bite, but not as much.

    I’ve also heard that drinking beer attracts the mosquitoes (there was some study done by a university that showed that people who drank beer had more mosquito bites than those that didn’t).

    I’ve also heard that vitamin B can keep them away. Not sure if that’s true, though.

  • Old fashion insect repellent with DEET works wonderfully! Also, if you are entertaining outside, the use of fans work as well. Mosquitos hate strong wind currents. So a couple of fans on your patio will keep them at bay.

  • I lived for close to a decade in the rural South. While there were alot of skeeters, it wasn’t nearly as bad as back home near Edmonton.
    That said, citronella candles suck. Deet in a concentration of 25% or higher is the way to go.

    • Dude! I’m from Edmonton too! And yes, mosquitoes in the south are terrible, but so are those in the Arctic, as a number of my friends who live in Yellowknife, NWT would testify (that’s Northwest Territories). It’s a beautiful town that is studded with little lakes. Not sure if it’s that, or the tundra, but damn, those are some serious mosquitoes. I can’t speak personally for the rest of the far north, but you better believe they’ve got ’em too.

  • I lived for close to a decade in the rural South. While there were alot of skeeters, it wasn’t nearly as bad as back home near Edmonton.
    That said, citronella candles suck. Deet in a concentration of 25% or higher is the way to go.

  • Bats (in theory)

  • I’m tired of being eaten alive so last summer I signed us for bi-weekly treatments from Mosquito Squad. It hasn’t eliminated the issue (the neighbor’s yards are filled with junk) but it has lowered the number of skeeters overall.

  • About a dozen of my neighbors are using Mosquito Squad where for $300/season they will treat our yards every three weeks with their chemical repellent/killer or for $400 treat our yards every two weeks with an all-natural repellent. I’m trying out the chemical treatment.

    If it doesn’t work, I’m going for one of the $300 machines that covers an acre, and maybe get some neighbors to chip in on that.

  • I spent a ton of money landscaping and renovating a backyard that is essentially unusable due to mosquitos. I’m kind of tired of the whole home ownership racket anyway, so my future ideal place would be a condo with a balcony a few stories above ground. I hear mosquitos don’t travel very high off the ground. I just want a small outdoor space where I can spontaneously have a drink, eat dinner, or whatever without dousing myself with deet.

  • People in DC need to stop complaining about mosquitos. If they bother you that much, get some spray or a citronella. Besides, last I checked, malaria hasn’t been a problem in the United States since the late 40s, and was officially eradicated in 1951.

  • I spent a few months in England some years back and I remember my host telling me they don’t really have mosquitoes and darned if she wasn’t right. Had a great outdoor picnic and nary an itch was had.

  • Does anyone know how to get the city to spray? All these small solutions won’t really solve the problem unless whole neighborhoods or the whole region are addressed. Aerial spraying! In addition, some sort of education campaign against standing water could help. Remember West Nile Virus? That got lots of attention, and action.

  • Clean your gutters, clean your neighbors gutters, empty and cover your super cans, and treat every place where water might pool with Mosquito Dunks and Mosquito Bits. Remove any ivy, as the adults wait there for food to walk past. Call the Department of Health’s Animal Disease Prevention Division at (202) 535-2323 for general information about the West Nile Virus and to request mosquito control treatment of areas like catch basins and sewers. They will cite neighborhood violators and can issue fines if the problems are not corrected.

  • Don’t get fooled by the “citronella” plants for sale around town. They are NOT citronella. Citronella looks kinda like lemon grass. The plants being sold are only geraniums bred to smell like citronella.

  • Take time to get rid of standing water around your place, in the alley behind it and so on. Amazing how the numbers will drop.

    And you have to do this after EVERY rain. Not jus tthe big ones.

  • I am seriously considering investing the $500 and getting this system installed on the front porch, which is basically miserable from May to late November. It could also serve to corral children.

  • We have a small fenced in patio, the coils you can buy at the hardware store work wonders. No comment on what the chemicals might be doing to my brain cells.

    • The coils work. I bring them back from trips to Africa. I didn’t know you could buy them in the US.

      And yeah, they are probably super toxic.

  • Just put on some Skin So Soft by Avon. It’s the best deterrent around.

  • Any advice for getting rid of non-mosquito but annoying little insects that like to hang out in my basement entrance? It is clean & dry & painted a light color, but they just hang out. Fly paper works until it is full and gross – but would love a magical deterrent.


    This worked amazing for my yard in Adams Morgan. We got a ton of mosquitos and I’m allergic, so it was awful. I would turn it on about 1/2 an hour before going outside into the yard and I wouldn’t even have a bite.

  • all kidding aside, a fan, regular old household fan work really well.

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