Spending time outdoors enjoying your dream landscape can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re swarmed by pesky mosquitoes. Taking these steps will help you take back control of your yard.
What do mosquitoes look like?
You might know their bites, but not everyone can recognize the insect itself. Mosquitoes are small insects that are between ¼ and ½ of an inch long. There are a few different species that vary in color, but the ones you’re likely to see are gray or brown.
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Their limbs are the best way to identify them. They have two long, scale-covered wings and a set of uniquely long legs. If you’re up close, you’ll also see an extended mouthpart called a proboscis. It’s like the mosquito’s straw. This characteristic sets them apart from other insects like crane flies.
What attracts mosquitoes to your landscape?
Mosquitoes love dark, humid places. They thrive in areas with plenty of shade and moisture because that’s where they can breed.
Common mosquito habitats:
- Tall grass
- Hollow trees
- Under leaves
- Anywhere with standing water
The mosquito life cycle
Effective mosquito control interrupts the life cycle of the insect. Killing adult mosquitoes is a good start, but preventing mosquito breeding will ensure mosquitoes don’t come back.
Each female can lay more than 700 eggs over the course of her lifespan (which is just a few months). They can mate with a male mosquito once and lay eggs up to five times from just that one encounter. They don’t need a mansion either – a mosquito can lay as many as 100 eggs in a space as small as a bottle cap.
Mosquitoes move through four stages of life: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. The first three stages depend on water, which is why minimizing standing water in your landscape is so important. They need water to lay eggs in, and mosquito larvae and pupae live on the surface of the water.
Finally, adult mosquitoes are able to leave the water. Male mosquitoes only live for about a week and mostly subsist on plant nectar. Female mosquitoes need blood meals to support their eggs (they’re the ones biting you), and can live up to six months. When the weather starts to cool off, some adult females hibernate. Mosquito eggs often survive winter.
5 ways to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard
1. Free from debris
As long as you have places for them to play hide and seek, mosquitoes won’t want to leave. Clearing debris is a great first step and will ensure any subsequent chemical treatment you use sticks.
So what does clearing debris mean? Debris includes:
- Lawn furniture
- Fallen branches
- Compost piles
- Overgrown vegetation
- Tall grass
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Tidying up will have a huge impact on the efficacy of future treatment. If you choose to use a broad-spectrum insecticide, for example, there’s nothing stopping new adult mosquitoes from making their home there again.
A similar line of treatment for mosquitoes is dethatching. Like clearing debris, dethatching removes a possible humid home for mosquitoes. Dethatching improves your soil’s drainage. This helps prevent fungal growth as well as mosquitoes.
What is thatch?
Thatch is a tightly woven layer of living and dead stems, roots, and leaves that collects in grass between the growing blades and the soil beneath. Thatch is totally normal, and a healthy layer protects your lawn against heavy foot traffic.
How do you know you need to dethatch?
A thatch layer of more than one-half inch means it’s time to dethatch. To find out how much thatch is on your lawn, cut out a small triangle of turf 6 inches deep. If the spongy layer above the soil is less than one-half inch thick when you squeeze it, you’re fine.
Certain factors increase your risk for heavy thatch. Acidic and compacted soils are more likely to develop thatch. Also, poor fertilization practices can increase thatch thickness. Grass types like Kentucky bluegrass and creeping bentgrass produce more thatch than other types.
How to dethatch:
You have two options: use a rake or a dethatcher. A dethatcher, similar to a rake, uses metal blades or tines to comb through the grass but requires less effort on your part.
- Wait until your grass can be mowed.
- Mow it at half its normal height.
- Use a dethatcher or a rake to pull up the thatch.
3. Clear standing water
Dealing with pooling water that just keeps coming back is the last thing you want to add to your chores. You might not even be aware of where or how water is collecting on your property.
Don’t skip this step. Mosquitoes spend 75% of their life cycle in water, so an abundance of it is one of the main reasons mosquitoes keep breeding in your landscape. We’ll give you a rundown of where to check for standing water and suggestions for how to deal with it.
Where to check for standing water:
- Flower pots (consider moving inside)
- Birdbaths (change several times a week)
- Pet bowls (change daily)
- Grill covers
- Trash can lids
- Depressions in lawn
Solutions for standing water in your lawn:
Rain garden: A rain garden is a simple way to take advantage of depressions in your landscape without installing a drain. Creating one is simple: Plant water-loving native grasses and flowers in a place that collects water.
Not only will you have a beautiful garden, but you’ll also reduce water waste, minimize flooding, and help purify water before it reaches streams and rivers. For extra credit, choose native plants that also repel mosquitoes like bee balm and American beautyberry.
Audit sprinkler system: Sometimes a faulty sprinkler system is responsible for the mysterious puddles you find in the morning. Sprinkler systems should be maintained and audited twice a year. This includes cleaning heads, adjusting stream direction, and making sure your watering sessions are timed.
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If everything checks out but you’re still left with puddles, make sure you’re watering early in the morning (4-8 a.m.). You might need a different sprinkler system that fits your landscape better.
Add drainage: Drainage systems are another effective way of dealing with flooding. The most common drains for residential properties are channel drains, french drains, dry wells, and catch basins. French drains are likely to solve your problem and are best installed by a professional unless you’re really handy.
Before adding drainage, try clearing your gutters and extending your downspouts away from the foundation of your house. Sometimes this is enough to solve your standing water issues.
4. Add mosquito-repelling plants to your landscape
Beautify your landscape and keep mosquitoes away? Sign us up. There are many plants that have qualities that are natural repellents for mosquitoes. Some plants have overwhelming fragrances, and others contain chemicals that irritate the bugs.
Where should you plant them?
The best places to put these plants are in “hot spots” — areas where mosquitoes are likely to congregate. Shady places like the front porch and back patio, or wet areas like around water features or in low points of land are great ideas.
- Bee balm
- American beautyberry
Many of these plants do double duty as flea and tick repellent, too.
5. Apply an insecticide
An insecticide is a substance applied to your yard that kills adult mosquitoes, eggs, and larvae. This is usually used as a last resort. Insecticides contain chemicals that can irritate the skin, hurt beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, and harm the environment. However, they are an effective way to control mosquitoes.
Most insecticides you’ll find use pyrethrins or the synthetic version, pyrethroids. They’ll need a few applications over the course of several weeks to eradicate the mosquito population. Always follow the instructions for your particular product.
How to use a broad-spectrum insecticide:
- To minimize the negative effects, only apply insecticide to mosquito-prone areas instead of the entire yard (shady and wet places).
- Measure the square footage you’ll be spraying by multiplying the length by width of each section, then adding them together.
- For example, Area A has a length of 3 feet and width of 2 feet. 3 x 2 is 6 square feet.
- Area B has a length of 6 feet and a width of 2 feet. 6 x 2 is 12 square feet.
- Area A (6 square feet) + Area B (12 square feet) is 18 square feet in total.
- Calculate how much product you need by multiplying the square footage you’ll be spraying by the amount of product recommended for 1,000 square feet, then dividing by 1,000.
- Let’s say you’re spraying 100 square feet. And 8 ounces of product covers 1,000 square feet.
- 8 x 100 = 800
- 800 divided by 1,000 = 0.8 ounces
- If you’re using concentrate, follow their instructions to calculate how many gallons of water you’ll mix it with. For example, a popular concentrate is Permethrin SFR. Every 1.23 ounces of product should be mixed with 1 gallon of water. Multiply 1.23 by the number of ounces you need to get the number of gallons of water to use.
- If it’s less than 1 ounce, it’s easier to use a 1 gallon pump sprayer. You can get these online or from home and garden stores.
- If it’s more than 1 ounce, use a hose-end sprayer.
How to use a hose-end sprayer:
- Fill the reservoir with the proper amount of concentrate and water to the corresponding gallon mark. The gallon marks tell you how much water has been sprayed from your hose.
- Connect the nozzle to your hose, making sure it’s in the off position.
- Make sure your water is turned off and attach the reservoir to the nozzle.
- Turn on the water and spray the areas.
- Leaving the deflector on sprays the water downward. To get the undersides of leaves, turn the deflector up so the water fans upward.
- Continue spraying evenly until the water in the reservoir depletes.
FAQs about mosquitoes
Any alterations to your landscape can be overwhelming to deal with on your own. A professional landscaping company can help you redesign and maintain your backyard. A pest control expert can handle your insecticide needs.
Main Photo Credit: Wonderlane | Flickr | public domain
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