Mosquitos are always annoying—they buzz and bite, and they’re pros at ruining a backyard barbecue. But with their recent and rapid spread of the Zika virus, keeping these insects at bay is a priority for your comfort at home and your health as we enter the warmer months.
For the most part, the mosquito that carries Zika virus, lives in more tropical regions of the world, like South America, Africa, and Asia. But other mosquitos, like the tiger mosquito and the common Anopheles gambiae, still plague the US, where they may transmit West Nile Virus and leave behind very itchy lumps after they bite. No matter what kind of mosquitos happen to be around your home, here’s what you can do to keep them away as the days grow warmer:
Don’t let them breed. Mosquitos can lay hundreds of eggs, even in a tiny amount of water. Get rid of any standing water in flower pots, tires, roof gutters, downspouts, buckets, drains, cans, toys, and other places where water might accumulate. If you have a pond, birdbath, or fountain, install a small pump to keep the water circulating, or drop in a mosquito dunk, which slowly releases bacteria that kill mosquito larvae.
Trap them. Traps lure female adult mosquitos inside, where they lay their eggs. Once in the trap, the females can’t exit, and neither can the larva when they hatch. Place the traps where mosquitoes can easily find them—for instance, on a wide railing where they won’t tip over, or suspended from a plant hanger. You’ll need to set out a trap every 10-20 feet for maximum coverage.
Keep them out of your home. Repair window and door screens and patch holes so mosquitos can’t get inside. Always keep your screen doors closed, and enter and exit your home quickly, to avoid them sneaking inside.
Blow them away. Mosquitos are very light and easy to deflect with the breeze from a fan. On a porch or patio, use fans to blow mosquitos away. If you have a covered porch, a ceiling fan, table fan, or vertical oscillating fan will work well. In your home or bedroom, ceiling fans and oscillating fans can also prevent you from getting bitten.
Wield a fly swatter. Mosquitos can be very frustrating to kill, since they are so tiny and almost invisible when aloft. They’re much easier to eliminate with a fly swatter rather than your hand.
Try mosquito netting. Cover playpens and baby strollers with nets to protect infants, and hang mosquito netting over your bed if needed.
Attract bats. One bat can eat as many as 1,200 mosquitos in an hour, and each bat usually eats 6,000 to 8,000 insects each night. Bats also eat moths, beetles, flies, and gnats, so they’ll help combat the rest of your insect infestation as well. You can buy bat houses at many homegoods and hardware stores, or even make your own.
Cover up when you go outside. During “mosquito season,” wear socks and shoes, long sleeved shirts and pants, a hat, and even a bandana around your neck. Generally, mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk, but the Zika virus mosquito is also active during the day. Whether you’re on a picnic, mowing the lawn or gardening, or out for a hike, wear lightweight full-coverage clothing to reduce the chances you’ll be bitten.
Apply insect repellent. Use bug sprays that contain DEET or icaridin, which repel mosquitos on contact. For a less toxic alternative to the conventional sprays, consider diluted oil of eucalyptus, lemon balm, or geranium—just be aware that you’ll probably have to apply it more frequently. Never spray or DEET-based insect repellent on babies, toddlers, and young children.
Take precautions if you’re planning to travel to the tropics. The World Health Organization has not yet recommended any travel or trade restrictions related to Zika virus disease. However, some countries suggest that people—especially pregnant women proceed with caution if they are planning to visit a destination where Zika virus has been detected.