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updated May 16, 2003

Mosquito Control for Homeowners
by Barb Ogg, Ph.D, Extension Educator

Mosquito biology: Mosquitoes pass through four distinct stages egg, larva ("wiggler"), pupa ("tumbler") and adult. Depending on the species, eggs are laid on soil, vegetation, in tree holes, or on the surface or along the edges of still water. Eggs may hatch immediately or may persist for years, waiting for the proper conditions for hatching still water with depleted oxygen. 

An adult female mosquito lives approximately two weeks given favorable conditions. They are good fliers, and can move several miles from an emergence site if necessary. In larger cities, where river flooding is not involved, most mosquitoes emerge locally. Female mosquitoes possess piercing-sucking mouthparts and require a blood meal to produce viable eggs. Eggs are laid in batches between blood meals. One female may deposit several hundred eggs in her lifetime. Under favorable conditions, a generation of mosquitoes can be completed in less than a week. 

Around your property: Eliminate all mosquito breeding areas. Examine leaf-clogged gutters, rain pools, bird baths, sewage lagoons, old tires, cans, bottles, children's wading pools and construction debris. Look for anything that might catch and hold rain. Drain water from these containers. Rinse the bird bath out weekly. Walk around your neighborhood. Try to spot possible breeding places near your home. 

Still water in birdbaths or ponds may be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in the form of biscuits, available at some garden and hardware stores, and suppliers. The sustained release of the active ingredients of these products may provide up to 30 days control of mosquito larvae. These products specifically attack mosquito larvae and will not harm fish or birds or wildlife that drink the water. 

Check all doors, windows and window screens, making sure these are in good repair and tight. Screens should be 16-inch mesh or smaller to prevent mosquito entry into the home. Keep porch lights off as much as possible in the evening. Or, replace traditional white light bulbs with yellow ones to help reduce the attractiveness of your home to mosquitoes and other night-flying insects. But, because female mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exale, using an insect repellent while outdoors can be the most important method to prevent mosquito bites. 

Working outdoors: Wear long-sleeved shirts and full length trousers. Two layers of clothing are more difficult to penetrate by biting mosquitoes. Wearing light-colored clothes will reduce your attractiveness. If you do a lot of garden work, consider buying a mosquito net at a sporting goods store wear it over your hat or cap. You may elect to use DEET (diethyl toluamide) repellents. These come under many brand labels and many formulations (lotions, gels, aerosols, creams, sticks). Nearly all contain DEET as the active ingredient. Percentages of actual DEET may range from 5% to 95%. Skin applications, especially of the more concentrated materials, may cause problems for sensitive people, small children or the elderly. Apply more highly concentrated products to clothing rather than bare skin. 

If you are concerned about DEET, try Avon's Skin So Soft Moisture Plus or other lotions that contain oil of citronella, a mild insect repellent. 

Work outdoors when it is cooler, or when there is a brisk air movement or strong sunlight. Different species of mosquitoes have specific feeding periods, but many are very active in early evening hours, generally from 5 to 9 p.m. 

Bug-free barbecuing: Treat flower borders, smaller trees and shrubs around the patio with either malathion or Sevin (carbaryl) about three hours before your outdoor event. Mosquito foggers are available and aerosol "fogs" are reasonably effective (some active ingredients contain pyrethrins, permethrin, resmethrin, or tetramethrin). These pyrethroid insecticides are short-term insecticides that have repellent properties so you should not expect long-term control. Check the label to verify uses and plants to avoid possible plant sensitivity and injury.

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