How to Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Yard

I have had it with these motherf*cking mosquitoes at these motherf*cking outdoor dinner parties. To prevent the little blood suckers from ruining the 4th of July—the biggest picnicking day of the summer—drastic measures are necessary. Here are some of the most effective (or, at least, most satisfying) methods for your upcoming insect genocide.

Repel

The first method of controlling the mosquito population in your yard, the use of repellents, is the least violent—gently persuading the marauding insects to hunt for blood elsewhere.

Spray-on repellents like Off, Jungle Juice, or Repel, all of which utilize the chemical DEET, are very effective—so long as you don't minds smelling like a camp site. If you're going for a dinner party with less of a backwoods feel, try a mosquito coil instead.

Mosquito coils burn Citronella oil. This yellow liquid is derived from a species of lemongrass, is a proven insect repellent—it's been listed by the FDA as a Generally Recognized as Safe biofungicide since 1948. It works because the smell of citronella masks the CO2 we exhale that mosquitoes find attractive. Mosquito coils, however, are generally not as effective as sprays and dissipate quickly if there is any amount of wind. The Thermacell system, which uses a butane cartridge to vaporize allethrin, a synthetic version of the biorepellent found in chrysanthemum flowers, are also quite popular.

The CDC also recommends any product containing Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, p-Mentane-3,8-diol (a synthetic form of Lemon Eucalyptus oil), and IR3535 (a biopesticide used in Europe for the last two decades) if you insist on going the spray route.

Another option is to install bug lights. These opaque, yellow bulbs work because humans and insects perceive different wavelengths of light—humans see longer wavelengths from blue to red, while insects tend to see shorter the wavelengths from ultraviolet to blue. This is why bugs congregate around both conventional light sources and black lights as well. By coating a bulb in an opaque yellow finish, the light it emits is essentially invisible to insects. And if they can't see a light source, they can't swarm there. The problem of course is that everything in your yard is now tinted yellow.

Kill

If your yard is drowned in yellow light, everything reeks of Citronella, and you're still getting bit, well, you've only got one option—all-out war. Now you just need to make sure you bring a big enough weapon.

If you prefer chemical warfare, misters are the way to go.These devices release an ultra-fine mist of insecticide that kills insects on contact (and/or a fog of repellent) over a set coverage area. Fancier models like the All Clear 4000 can cover up to 3000 square feet with effects typically lasting a few hours.

If the thought of dousing your back yard wholesale with the insect equivalent of mustard gas makes you uneasy, you'll want to take a more targeted approach—trapping. Mosquito traps perform the opposite function as Citronella candles—instead of masking the CO2 we breath out, traps duplicate it. These devices work either by converting propane into a stream of CO2, heat, and water vapor to attract the biting insects—though some use chemical or visual attractants as well. Mosquitoes are lured into a trapping bag where they eventually dehydrate and die.

Traps are an effective long-term solution to controlling the local mosquito population, but they certainly aren't very satisfying—unless you count occasionally throwing away bags of dead insects as satisfying. What you want is something that electrocutes the vicious little gits and lets you know it's working with a with satisfying ker-ZAP. You want a bug zapper.

Bug Zappers have been around since the 1930s. They use a fluorescent light to attract insects and an electrified grid surrounding the lights to kill them. Now, while listening to mosquitoes meet their demise at 2000 volts makes for a great summer evening, zappers also attract and kill a number of beneficial insects as well.

Prevent

Now that you've got them on the run, it's time to take a page out of General Sherman's playbook and start your own scorched earth policy. An operative once said, "If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to" and that's exactly what you need to do.

Mosquitoes actually begin their lives under water. Females will lay their eggs in just about an standing pool of water they can find, so that's where you strike first. Keep your rain gutters clear and your unused bird baths empty to reduce their breeding grounds. If you keep a rain barrel, install a drip oil can. These devices maintain a thin sheen across the top of the water—drowning the larvae already in there and preventing more from being deposited. Now if New York City only did the same for its sewer catch basins.

Don't Bother

While there's a lot that you can do to crush your insect enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women, there are also many techniques that just aren't effective. Citrosa plants, for example, are often sold as mosquito repellent bushes, don't actually produce any mosquito-repelling compounds and have been shown in multiple studies to be generally useless in the battle of the bugs. The same goes for ultrasonic emitters—those devices that shriek at 10,000hz, supposedly deafening the insects. Problem is, mosquitos, like humans, don't hear in that audible range. Don't even waste your time.

[EPA - CDC - Wikipedia 1, 2 - About - eHow - Henrik Larsson / Shutterstock]