Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they can also be dangerous. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an advisory Monday over the first known cases of US-contracted Malaria in 20 years. Though there are only a handful of cases, currently limited to Texas and Florida, the precautions you take each year to protect against mosquito bites may offer some protection against mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria.
When it comes to protecting yourself from these pesky and sometimes perilous insects, there are several options. Here are a few of those methods, to help you enjoy your summer more safely.
Start with your surroundings
Before you slather yourself with greasy bug spray, take time to make your backyard or outdoor space less inviting to mosquitoes. Eliminate any standing, stagnant water where mosquitoes could breed. That includes places like buckets, gutters, play sets or any plastic covers.
If you have items outdoors that need water, like bird baths, fountains or rain barrels, empty any excess water you can and change out the water at least once a week to keep it fresh. If you have a pool, be sure to properly treat and circulate the water.
Get EPA-approved repellent spray
To protect against mosquito bites, the CDC recommends using insect repellent that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. This means it’s been tested and proved safe and effective when used as directed.
If you’re stuck deciding what you need in a repellent, the EPA has a search tool to help you find the right fit for your situation. Which ones are most effective? The CDC recommends using an EPA-registered product with one of the following active ingredients for maximum repelling power:
- Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US).
- Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD).
Though you may prefer a more natural approach if you’d like to limit your exposure to chemicals, the CDC notes that it doesn’t know the effectiveness of some natural repellents and those not registered with the EPA.
Wear the right clothes
It’s probably not the advice you’d like to hear in the hot summer months, but donning long sleeves, socks and pants is one way to protect against mosquito bites. Fabric can act as a barrier, making it more difficult for mosquitoes to reach your skin in the first place. If long sleeves and pants aren’t your summer style, tucking in your shirt is still a good idea.
When you’re choosing your outdoor outfit for mosquito protection, keep in mind that mosquitoes can sometimes bite through some tight-fitting fabric, like spandex. The CDC recommends loose-fitting clothing and treating clothes with 0.5% permethrin, which can’t be used on skin.
Grow your garden
If you’re looking for a chemical-free approach to repelling mosquitoes, potted plants and a few additions to your garden can go a long way. The essential oils inside some plants repel mosquitoes, and those oils are released when the leaves are crushed, burned or rubbed directly onto skin. Add some greenery to your patio with these plants thought to keep mosquitoes at bay with their scents and oils:
- Citronella grass.
- Lemon balm.
- Scented geraniums.
Invest in a misting system
Misting systems are one way to seriously wage war against mosquitoes on your property. These systems are made up of nozzles connected via tubing to a tank that holds an insecticide. The nozzles, set around the perimeter of your yard, spray a fine mist of insecticide to kill and repel mosquitoes.
Automatic spraying occurs in timed intervals, or you can activate the system through a remote control. Misting is thought to be safe for households with children and pets, and there are all natural misting solutions, but it’s still recommended that you avoid the area while the actual misting is taking place.
This method of repeated spraying is effective, but it doesn’t come cheap. DIY versions costs several hundred dollars, while full-service, professionally installed systems can cost as much as $5,000 for a quarter-acre lot. Still, if you have a serious problem with pests, you might be happy to trade your dollars for comfort. For more information on misting and how insecticides are regulated in your state, read the EPA’s guide.
Other options include devices that repel mosquitoes from a distance. Thermacell’s repeller uses fuel cartridges loaded with Allethrin, a synthetic version of a natural repellent found in chrysanthemum plants. The battery-powered device generates heat that disperses the repellent into the air, creating a protection zone.
Try these methods to find the right solution for your space. Whether it’s potted plants or potent sprays, you can enjoy a mosquito-free space all summer.