The best way to control mosquitoes is to interrupt their life cycle, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to reduce or eliminate areas around your house where they breed, the state health department advises.
Because water is an important part of many of the insects’ lifecycles, removing places where standing water can accumulate is a good first step. This includes old tires, trash cans, cans and bottles stored outside, clogged gutters and flat roofs with poor drainage. If you have a rain barrel, a cistern or a septic tank, make sure it is covered tightly with a good-fitting lid or covered with 16-mesh screen, the health department advises.
If you have a wading pool or a kiddie pool in your yard, make sure to empty it at least once a week. Store it inside when not being used. Make sure any boats you store are covered or upside down. If you have bird baths or plant pots with trays, make sure to change the water at least once a week. And make sure to change the water in any pet bowls kept outside daily.
If you have a pond, stock it with fish that eat mosquito larvae, like minnows and goldfish. And keep your grass cut short, because mosquitoes like to rest in tall grass and other shady spots during the heat of the day.
In addition to taking steps to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing around your home, you should also protect yourself from mosquito bites when possible. The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to avoid being outdoors at the times when they are most active. The most active time of day for most mosquitoes is just before and after sunrise and sunset, although some mosquitoes, particularly Asian tiger mosquitoes and tree-hole mosquitoes, are active during the day, according to the state health department.
Repellents can also be effective in preventing mosquito bites. DEET is considered the gold standard in active ingredients to prevent mosquito bites. Look for products containing 20% to 30% DEET, as these are usually sufficient, IDPH reports. Products containing higher concentrations of DEET are available, but they don’t usually offer any additional protection.
Two other active ingredients that can help repel mosquitoes are picardin and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Picardin has shown to be nearly as effective as DEET, but without the strong odor and sticky feeling, IDPH states. Some people prefer oil of lemon eucalyptus because it is derived from a plant. Although it is effective, it does not last for as long as products containing DEET or picardin.
One word of caution: Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than 3, and products containing DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months old.
Other tips for preventing mosquito bites include the following:
- Wear appropriate clothing when possible. Long-sleeved shirts and pants will offer the best protection, and make sure to tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots.
- Choose light-colored clothing, as this will help deter mosquitoes.
- Check your home’s screens and doors to make sure they are in good repair and not allowing mosquitoes and other insects a way to get indoors.
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors in an unprotected structure.
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