The forecast predicts absolutely perfect weather for the weekend, so you invite a few neighbors over for an evening of backyard barbecuing and beverages. Everything starts off exactly as planned—until a swarm of mosquitoes, the bane of warm-weather outdoor activities, show up. Instead of letting them turn your evening get-together into a race to go back inside, keep those pests at bay by doing your best to make your yard and yourself less attractive to mosquitoes in the first place.
Choose Your Lighting Wisely
If you've ever left a porch light on after dark during peak insect season, you've also seen the swarms of insects that the light attracts. Some insects, such as moths, are drawn to incandescent lights in particular. Lights more in the warm color spectrum, with hints of yellow or red, don't draw as many mosquitoes as lights in the bluer spectrum, which includes many standard incandescent light bulbs. Those yellow "bug lights" on the market for decades don't actually repel mosquitoes, but they could help keep them away, largely because the mosquito can't see light in that spectrum very well. In other words, the mosquito's human targets are less visible under yellow light than when illuminated by white or even ultraviolet light.
Banish the Bug Zapper
Bug zappers that attract insects with ultraviolet light and electrocute them with that characteristic "zapping" sound do indeed kill insects, but unfortunately, they're not so great at killing biting insects such as the female mosquito. Numerous tests cataloging the insects killed by zappers over the course of a summer show similar results: At most, less than 4 percent of the insects killed were mosquitoes. Nearly all insects killed are midges and other non-biting aquatic insects that are important food sources for fish and other wildlife. Mosquitoes aren't drawn to ultraviolet light, so these light-based bug zappers won't kill many of these pests, nor will they keep them out of your yard. The zapper will draw in plenty of other insects, though, so placing one near your favorite outdoor hangout spot means more insects will hang out with you, too.
Avoid Attracting Mosquitoes
While it may be impossible to keep every mosquito out of your backyard, a few simple cleanup projects can mean the difference between a few mosquitoes or a few hundred. Mosquitoes lay eggs in still waters, so any item collecting water outdoors is a potential mosquito nursery. Pet bowls, birdbaths, stagnant ponds and even the kiddie pool are potential mosquito attractants. Replace the water in bowls and shallow pools every day, if possible. Check the gutters and even low spots in your yard after rain and empty out any places where water collects. Remove debris from the gutters so water flows freely. If any area of your yard floods so often that pooled water lasts for days, consider filling it in to avoid attracting more mosquitoes to the space.
Tall brush and piles of debris also attract mosquitoes, as they're drawn to cool, shady areas in the daytime. Keep lawns trimmed and avoid stacking firewood or trimmed tree branches near any outdoor places that people or pets frequent. Even leaf piles can harbor mosquitoes.
Fans are Your Friend
If ceiling fans on a porch seems like a silly idea, think again. Air movement helps keep mosquitoes away for two reasons: The breeze makes it more difficult for a mosquito to land on your skin, and it also redistributes the carbon dioxide that attracts mosquitoes to humans in the first place. An oscillating fan placed near the patio table where your friends gather can greatly reduce the number of mosquito bites during your soiree.
Clothing: Light, But Not Tight
Mosquitoes also use vision to find potential hosts. Dark clothing colors such as navy blue, bright red or black are noticed by mosquitoes more easily than light colors. Wear light clothing to make yourself a little less visible to these blood-sucking pests. Stay as covered as possible, as mosquitoes have a knack for finding bare skin. Loose-fitting clothing is also a great idea, as a mosquito's proboscis may be able to penetrate to your skin through thin, tight-fitting clothing.
Mosquito Coil Concerns
Mosquito coils and other products that are heated to emit mosquito-repelling chemicals are somewhat effective at preventing bites, but frequent use could be a health concern. Most contain chemicals that are considered safe for use around humans. When these coils or pads smolder or warm up, however, they may emit particulates and toxins such as formaldehyde. Breathing in vapors or sitting too close can irritate the lungs or skin.
Plant-derived sprays, lotions and essential oils are also effective mosquito repellents, as are the original plants they came from. Plant lemongrass along the perimeter of the patio, for instance, or use pots of rosemary plants instead. Also look for natural products containing spearmint and lemongrass oils, clove, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary or lavender. Apply the product to exposed areas of skin. Citronella goods, such as torches and wristbands, are also helpful.