How to safely kill mosquitoes in your yard

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Trying to figure out how to prevent or safely kill mosquitoes in your yard without using dangerous synthetic chemicals that harm wildlife or people? This article will help!   

How to safely kill mosquitoes without synthetic pesticides and sprays

Do you want to have a safe, healthy, mosquito-free yard and neighborhood? 

We set out to figure out how to make that possible, looking at the best available research. We’ve also put that information to work effectively in our own yard, and have recruited our neighbors to be part of the solution. 

The results? We can walk out in our yard on hot, humid summer mornings and evenings without being covered in mosquitoes like we used to be.  

Want to get the same results? Follow the steps in the flier (below), then print and share them with your neighbors!

The more people in your neighborhood who participate, the better the results will be. After all, mosquitoes don’t recognize property boundaries or your neighbor’s fence. 

Informational flyer

Here’s a quick visualization showing the basic information you need to know and do to safely control the mosquito populations in your yard: 

A helpful flier with the basic information you need to know to safely kill mosquitoes in your yard. Share with your neighbors for even less mosquitoes! Note: Right click the image if you want to save / download it.

A helpful flier with the basic information you need to know to safely kill mosquitoes in your yard. Share with your neighbors for even less mosquitoes! Note: Right click the image if you want to save / download it.

Read the full article below for details, references, and helpful mosquito facts!

The vast majority of insects are “good” and can help control the “bad” insects

We should preface this article by saying that we LOVE insects. Lacewings, praying mantises, ladybugs, wheel bugs, wasps, bees, etc..

With few exceptions, insects are welcome in our yard. We even welcome common pest insects like aphids, because they’re great food for our predatory insects, such as ladybugs.

The fact is that 95% of all insects are beneficial or benign. And many of the good ones are predators that help control the pest and biting insects.  

We do our best to plant a diversity of flowering plants to attract, feed, and provide breeding habitat for insects. Most predatory insects also eat nectar (sugar/carbohydrates) and pollen (protein and fat) in addition to other insects.

Beautiful Gulf Fritillary butterflies pollinating zinnias in our garden. They're quite charismatic as adults, but people often spray their larvae with insecticides because they look scary.

Beautiful Gulf Fritillary butterflies pollinating zinnias in our garden. They’re quite charismatic as adults, but people often spray their larvae with insecticides because they look scary.

However, there are some insects that we sometimes wish would permanently vanish from the face of the earth… One such insect is the mosquito, which is universally reviled by virtually every human culture on the planet.

Interesting mosquito facts

First some interesting mosquito facts:

  • There are over 3,500 species of mosquitoes and only a few hundred of those species bite.
  • Mosquitoes are a great food source for lots of other creatures, including predators like dragonflies and bats.
  • Male mosquitoes can’t bite; only the females can.
  • Both male and female mosquitoes are also pollinators.

Mosquito on Flower.JPG
Mosquito on marigold flower. Image credit: Abhishek727 Abhishek Mishra – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Mosquitoes can also be deadly to humans

There is a long list of terrible diseases that blood-sucking and blood-transferring mosquitoes spread to people:

  • malaria,
  • yellow fever,
  • dengue fever,
  • Japanese encephalitis,
  • Rift Valley fever,
  • Chikungunya virus,
  • West Nile virus,
  • Zika virus,
  • and on and on…

So it’s easy to understand why mosquitoes are so hated. Not to mention, nothing ruins a beautiful summer day faster than a swarm of biting mosquitoes.

What would happen if every mosquito in the world was killed?

Ever wonder what would happen if every biting mosquito on earth were to vanish? Scientists have debated that very question.

The general consensus? Despite a few negative ecological impacts, other insect species would fill the void left by mosquitoes, and the overall results for people and planet would be a net positive. 

Cutting off the nose to spite the face 

While the complete global eradication of every “good” or “bad” mosquito species is a purely hypothetical and unrealistic aim, it’s not at all unrealistic to try to kill or prevent mosquitoes in your own yard. However, it’s essential that you do so in a way that’s ecologically and ethically rational, e.g. your efforts to kill mosquitoes doesn’t risk harming other organisms, including people, pets, and beneficial wildlife.

Culex pipiens diagram num.svg
Reciting the names of every mosquito body part from memory makes a great impression on a first date. Image credit: Mariana Ruiz Villarreal LadyofHats – Self made based on this websites between others: [1], [2], [3], [4]., Public Domain, Link

In our yard — which is right smack in the middle of the hot, humid Southeast US (aka mosquito heaven) — we have virtually no mosquitoes. And we’ve managed to accomplish this objective with no discernible negative impact to other species.

Did we hire a mosquito company? Nope. Pay for expensive products? Nope. In fact, you probably pay more for lunch than you’ll pay for the cost of controlling mosquitoes using the methods we recommend.

Below we’ll detail how we got rid of our mosquitoes using safe, organic methods and how you can too!

You need to first understand mosquitoes if you want to effectively and safely eradicate them.

If you want to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard, you have to start by understanding the life cycle of mosquitoes and what they’re attracted to. From there, the solutions outlined in this article to help you safely kill mosquitoes will make perfect sense. 

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things you need to know about mosquitoes to kill them or effectively stop them from proliferating:

A. What is a mosquito’s life cycle?

The life cycle of a mosquito is: egg > larva > pupa > adult.

Mosquito larva 20090504.JPG
Mosquito larva. Thankfully, this is not actual size. Image credit: Sven.petersenOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Depending on the species:

  • a female ADULT mosquito will live anywhere between 6-8 weeks, and
  • a male adult mosquito will live about 10 days.

The time it takes mosquitoes to go from egg to adult (the “aquatic cycle”) can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on the species. This process is sped up by hot weather and ideal breeding grounds, namely stagnant water with decomposing organic matter (leaves and plant material).

B. How far can mosquitoes fly?

The distance a mosquito can fly depends on the species. For instance, Aedes Aegypti (the mosquito species responsible for the spread of Zika Virus) will only travel about 50-100 meters. Others can fly for many miles over the course of their lives.

But the better the conditions are in a given spot, the more likely mosquitoes will stay there and the more they’re going to reproduce.  

C. What do mosquitoes need to reproduce?

Female mosquitoes need to ingest animal blood in order to get the macronutrients they need to produce eggs. Then they have to lay their eggs somewhere that:

  1. Will have standing water for 3-10 days straight. Exception: Species of flood water mosquitoes lay their eggs in the soil on flood plains which then hatch next time there’s standing water, but this likely does not apply to your home landscape.
  2. Has water that contains decomposing plant matter necessary to foster the microorganisms (algae, plankton, fungi and bacteria) their larvae need to eat in order to grow into pupa. Mosquitoes don’t eat during the pupal stage as they transform into adults.

D. How many new mosquitoes can a single mosquito produce?

A single mating pair of mosquitoes can breed thousands of new adult mosquitoes over the course of their short life cycle. If you’ve ever been near a swamp in the summertime, you’ve had firsthand experience of how quickly mosquitoes can breed under ideal circumstances.

Now that you know the basics that mosquitoes need to complete their lifecycle and breed, it’s time for you to learn how to break their lifecycle and safely kill mosquitoes in your yard!

Step by step: How to safely kill mosquitoes in your yard

Step 1: Get rid of all standing water in your yard. 

Common sources of standing water include:

  • clogged gutters
  • stored buckets
  • saucers underneath potted plants
  • bird baths (unless you change them every few days)
  • pet water dishes (unless you change them every few days)
  • water on certain plants that hold water (example: we grow pineapples in pots and have to turn over the plants to drain the small pools of water that form in the leaf axils after a rain)

Step 2: Don’t create a blood buffet

If female mosquitoes don’t get a blood meal, they can not reproduce. You can’t control what the stray cat does, the possum that visits at night, etc. However, you can manage yourself and your pets. 

When you’re outside, either wear long clothing that protects your skin or wear a safe and effective bug spray. There are also lots of plants like catnip and common potent herbs you can vigorously rub between your hands and rub on your skin to provide temporary mosquito protection, but these don’t last as long as commercial sprays. (See: 13 edible plants you can grow and use to deter mosquitoes.)

Also, instead of leaving your pets outside to be feasted on, bring them inside. 

Step 3: ATTRACT any pregnant female mosquitoes that happen to be in your yard to lay their eggs in baited water intended to kill their larvae.

A lovely lady mosquito full of eggs may be hovering about trying to decide where to lay her eggs. If so, you want to provide the perfect spot for her (cue evil laughter). A bucket of stagnant water in a shady spot in your yard with a secret ingredient inside…

What do you put in the baited water to kill the mosquito larvae? Poison? Nuclear weapons? Nope. 

You’re going to harness the power of a simple bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), to do the mosquito-larvae-murdering for you, safely and efficiently.

You don’t have to be a microbiologist to use Bti. In fact, you can buy a summer-long supply of the same Bti mosquito “dunks” that we use for $20 on Amazon.

Bt dunks are harmless to beneficial insects, pets, birds, fish, and other wildlife — especially when used as detailed further below in this article! 

Step 4: Use nature to fight nature.

A healthy ecosystem is full of creatures that love to feast on mosquitoes at every stage of their lifecycle. When it comes to eating adult mosquitoes, there’s a long list of predators including bats, dragonflies, frogs, spiders, lizards, and birds. 

Our yard is a no-till organic edible landscape that’s chock full of diverse, flowering plant species during the warm months. This means we have lots of predators around that help us control the mosquito population. We’d encourage you to take the same approach with your little piece of earth! 

If this way of operating is new or daunting for you, please read our top 10 tips to start an organic garden

These four steps will do wonders in controlling your mosquito populations! Now more on using Bt… 

How to use Bt mosquito dunks

Once you have your Bt mosquito dunks, just follow these steps to get the most bang for your buck while minimizing the potential harm to other wildlife:

Step 1: Fill a small buckets with water and add a Bt dunk as per the instructions on the specific product you purchase. You can probably use less than one dunk for a bucket of water.  

Step 2: Add a small bit of dead plant matter (old leaves, grass clippings, etc) to help make the water smell even more attractive to female egg-laying mosquitoes. The dunks also have material in them that helps attract egg laying mosquitoes.

Step 3: (optional) Cut a small 1/2″ mesh cage to place over the water bucket to keep any pets from drinking it. Again, Bti is thought to be harmless to animals and is even approved for use on organic farms, but you don’t want to have to replace your water every few days after Spot or Fluffy drinks it. The cage also helps to keep frogs and other vertebrates from falling in and drowning.

Step 4: Put a stick in the bucket that stretches from the bottom to above the surface rim. This ensures that if a frog, lizard or other critter does somehow manage to fall in, they can crawl up the stick and out of the bucket. (Cut or bend a spot in the wire to allow the critters out from under the cage.)

Step 5: Place your mosquito larvae-killing buckets in shady, relatively moist areas of your yard where mosquitoes would naturally congregate. Ideal spots: under bushes, under the deck, the shady area near the creek, etc.

The final product - this is one of five

This is one of five mosquito Bt dunk buckets we use throughout the summer on our half acre yard. This one is down on the edge of the woods on our property. A new Bt dunk will start killing mosquito larvae within 48 hours. 

Then, set a calendar reminder in your phone to replace the dunks in each bucket once per month, topping up the water as-needed.

Note: If areas of your yard have standing water (such as a drainage ditch), you’ll also want to toss in one or more Bt dunks depending on the volume of water present. 

Reminder: If you want to make your mosquito control measures even more effective, get the neighbors around you to follow the simple, inexpensive steps in this article too!

We hope the information in this article helps you better enjoy your outdoor space!

Other articles that will have you buzzing:

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  • Reply
    April 3, 2021 at 8:28 am

    I’ve never heard this before! Does it have to be a 5 gal bucket? Would a 1 gal bucket work? How many buckets for an acre, guessing?

    The catnip article was great too! Where can we get this “Meowee- Wowee” variety? Thanks Aaron.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 3, 2021 at 9:05 am

      Hi Robyn! No, it doesn’t have to be a 5- or 1-gallon bucket of water. You can go much smaller, but you may have to refill if it’s really hot and dry. That’s why we use larger buckets in the summer when we tend to have dry spells – I don’t want to have to remember to go around and refill the buckets. I also assume (perhaps incorrectly) that a larger bucket of water might be more attractive to breeding mosquitoes than a smaller one, and the aim is to make the bT buckets as attractive as possible for female mosquitoes in search of a spot to lay their eggs. As far as how many bT buckets per acre: that’s really hard to answer since each species of mosquito has different flight ranges. When in doubt, consider doing more bT buckets than you think you need, especially if: a) you have bad mosquito problems, and b) you have lots of shady, damp areas where mosquitos are likely to breed or hang out.

      Glad you enjoyed the catnip-mosquito repellent article! (Linked here for anyone else dropping by: ‘Meowie Wowie’ catnip is the joke name we gave to mom’s plant due to its potency, but as far as I know, it’s not an actual named, commercially available catnip variety. (Perhaps we should start saving seeds from our plants.) We did provide a link in that article where you can buy quality catnip seeds.

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