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It’s warming up and mozzies are coming. Here’s how to mosquito-proof your backyard

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12th September, 2023

The weather is warming up and that means more time in the backyard. It also means more mosquitoes.

Here are five ways you can mos­qui­to-proof your back­yard that don’t rely on spray­ing insec­ti­cides.

1. Get rid of water

Mos­qui­toes need water to com­plete their life cycles. They need blood – but water and warmth are just as important.

Get­ting rid of water around your back­yard will go a long way to keep­ing mos­qui­toes away. Water trapped in blocked roof gut­ters, drains and tar­pau­lin cov­er­ing boats and trail­ers can be a great home for mosquitoes.

Mos­qui­toes can exploit the tini­est of water sources too. It may just be the upturned lid of a dis­card­ed plas­tic drink bot­tle. If it traps water, mos­qui­toes will find it and lay eggs in it.

Flush out your bird bath once a week to dis­rupt the mosquito’s life cycle.

If you have a pond, installing a foun­tain will dis­cour­age mos­qui­toes. If you can’t keep water clean and cir­cu­lat­ing, con­sid­er fill­ing it with sand and grav­el to cre­ate an inter­est­ing gar­den bed for suc­cu­lents or oth­er plants.

Mos­qui­toes will avoid clean and chlo­ri­nat­ed swim­ming pools but will quick­ly move into “green pools”. If you’re not using your pool, con­sid­er con­vert­ing it to a “pond” so that fish can help keep mos­qui­to num­bers down.

2. Screen up – windows, doors and rainwater tanks

If you can’t get rid of per­ma­nent water, at least stop mos­qui­toes get­ting to it (or you).

Ensure rain­wa­ter and sep­tic tanks have screens to stop mos­qui­toes entering.

Screen win­dows and doors to stop mos­qui­toes enter­ing the home. There are plen­ty of flex­i­ble screen­ing options for win­dows, doors and balconies.

If you live in a mos­qui­to-prone area, cre­at­ing a screened out­door area (such as a per­go­la, court­yard, or bal­cony) will give you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to spend time out­doors with­out being has­sled by mozzies.

Mosquitoes on a window screen
Screen­ing win­dows and doors keeps mos­qui­toes out.

3. Choose your garden plants carefully

Some plants con­tain essen­tial oils and oth­er chem­i­cals that, when extract­ed and con­cen­trat­ed, pro­vide pro­tec­tion against bit­ing mos­qui­toes. But there isn’t a lot of evi­dence that the whole plant will keep mos­qui­toes away from your garden.

Some types of plants are even mar­ket­ed as “mozzie block­ers” or “mos­qui­to repelling”. But there isn’t any evi­dence of effec­tive­ness. In fact, some of these plants, such as melaleu­cas, also hap­pen to be asso­ci­at­ed with hot spots of mos­qui­to breed­ing in coastal Australia.

The plants to avoid around the home are those that help mos­qui­toes breed, such as bromeli­ads, which trap water.

An outdoor pot plant with water in the base tray.
Water pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for mos­qui­toes to breed.

4. Encourage the animals that eat mosquitoes

Mos­qui­toes are food for a range of ani­mals includ­ing birds, bats, fish, frogs, lizards, insects, spi­ders and drag­on­flies. But don’t expect them to eat enough to keep all mos­qui­toes away.

Bats are often pro­mot­ed as a good “bio­log­i­cal con­trol” options but stud­ies have shown mos­qui­toes are more like­ly to be a snack food for small bats, not an irre­sistible sta­ple of their diet.

For gar­den ponds, frogs will eat a few adult mos­qui­toes but tad­poles of Aus­tralian frogs gen­er­al­ly don’t eat many mos­qui­to “wrig­glers”.

Aus­tralian native fish will read­i­ly eat mos­qui­toes and may be use­ful for back­yard ponds.

But not all fish are good. While “mos­qui­tofish” (aka “plague min­now”) is dis­trib­uted over­seas to assist in mos­qui­to con­trol, it’s a dis­as­ter for local wildlife and, along with oth­er exot­ic fish species, should not be released into local waterways.

Health­i­er habi­tats pro­mote few­er mos­qui­toes so the best thing you can do is cre­ate habi­tats for the ani­mals that eat mosquitoes.

5. Avoid traps and other gadgets

There are lots of devices pur­port­ed to catch, kill, or repel mos­qui­toes from your gar­den. Some may catch a mos­qui­to or two but they’re not very effec­tive in knock­ing out big numbers.

“Bug zap­pers” with bright lights will col­lect lots of fly­ing insects. It’s just that mos­qui­toes make up a very small pro­por­tion of collections.

Elec­tro­cut­ing devices, again, don’t seem to attract a lot of mosquitoes.

Devices that emit high fre­quen­cy sounds won’t help either.

The best devices are typ­i­cal­ly those that are bait­ed with car­bon diox­ide. These are a main­stay of state and ter­ri­to­ry mos­qui­to and arbovirus sur­veil­lance pro­grams. For a mos­qui­to, the C0₂ tricks them into think­ing the trap is a warm-blood­ed ani­mal. The only prob­lem is these can be expen­sive to run and don’t seem quite as effec­tive for mos­qui­to con­trol unless used in large num­bers.

Yes, you’ll still need repellent

Per­haps the best way to avoid mos­qui­to bites is to pick an insect repel­lent rec­om­mend­ed by health author­i­ties and apply it to ensure all exposed areas of skin are cov­ered. These prod­ucts and safe, afford­able and effective.The Conversation

Cameron Webb, Clin­i­cal Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor and Prin­ci­pal Hos­pi­tal Sci­en­tist, NSW Health Pathology.

This arti­cle is repub­lished from The Con­ver­sa­tion under a Cre­ative Com­mons license. Read the orig­i­nal arti­cle.


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