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Many a balmy summer's evening spent outside has been ruined by pesky mosquitoes. We've all been there - gathered around the campfire after an alfresco feast only to spend the remained of the night scratching away at irritating bites. In a bid to keep your backyard bite-free, you might be considering drastic methods like bug zappers, but there are plenty of easier (and kinder) ways that are just as effective.
Few other insects match the bothersome status of these midges, but zapping them to death seems a bit inhumane, not to mention unnecessary. There are a whole host of natural ways to keep these critters at bay, as well as some preventative measures you can take to keep them away from your backyard. From getting rid of standing water to planting mosquito-repellent plants, here are seven methods pest control experts recommend that don't require you to resort to the zapper.
1. Mow the lawn
Mowing your grass regularly doesn't only result in a better-looking lawn, but it can help keep mosquitoes at bay, too. As Nicole Carpenter, CEO of Black Pest Prevention, explains: 'Mosquitoes tend to rest in tall grass during the day, so keeping it short will reduce spots of their habitats.'
This goes for other parts of your garden that could easily become a nesting site for these critters. 'Get rid of excess leaf litter, firewood, and lawn clippings in your yard by throwing them away,' says Emma Grace Crumbley, an entomologist at Mosquito Squad. 'These items are often damp and can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.'
2. Light a citronella candle
There's a reason the scent of citronella is so nostalgic - it takes you back to camping trips as a kid when you'd be smothered in the stuff to ward off these itchy flying insects. If you don't want to smell like an overpowering citronella plant, lighting a citronella-scented candle is by far the best alternative (and it helps to set the mood for an evening spent on the front porch, too).
'A natural deterrent for mosquitoes is simply lighting citronella candles, which will leave you insect-free and permeate the air with a pleasant scent,' says Sophie Thorogood at pest prevention specialists Pelsis Group. 'Mosquitoes and flies hate the smell and naturally stay away from fire smoke as well, making it the perfect natural repellent.'
3. Get rid of any standing water
If there's one important thing you take away from this, it's that mosquitos love the damp. For a mozzie-free zone, make sure there's no unnecessary standing water in your modern garden. As Sophie notes: 'They provide potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, so it's essential to mop up any puddles on the floor, empty bird tables, and clean the gutters regularly.'
Don't forget about the more unsuspecting places, either. 'Turn over larger yard items that could hold water such as wheelbarrows and unused flowerpots, and relocate standing water features or outdoor pet dishes away from the house's perimeter,' suggests Emma Grace. 'Tarps that are stretched over firewood piles, boats, or sports equipment can also collect water and create a habitat for mosquitoes.'
4. Keep your pool clean or add fish to your pond
Pools are one of the best parts of summer - that is, until there's a swarm of mosquitoes hovering above them. If you're fortunate enough to have one be sure to keep it clean and install a cover if you can to prevent them laying larvae in there. 'Clean and disinfect your pool by running the filter and chlorinating on a regular basis,' says Emma Grace. 'Chlorine alone will not kill mosquito larvae but will hinder their growth.'
Another mosquito breeding ground, ponds are a similar story. With these, your best bet is adding fish to curb larvae populations. 'Removing all water will obviously not be possible, but introducing fish such as guppies, koi, or carp, is a great solution since all of them feed on larvae,' says Sophie.
5. Install a mesh screen
An old-school mosquito hack but nonetheless effective, net screens are a great way to prevent dreaded gnats from entering your home. 'Adding mesh mosquito screens to windows and doors can make it harder for insect intruders to enter the house,' Emma Grace notes. 'Since most insects come inside behind you when you enter or exit the home, adding a screen door or screen window creates one more barrier for them to get through.'
'Installing fly screens on your doors and windows also means you can leave them open during the sweltering summer heat, giving vital ventilation,' adds Sophie.
6. Avoid wearing strong fragrances and use a repellent spray
Some people have skin that just smells delicious to mosquitoes, and while you can't control the scent of your blood or body odor itself, you can avoid strong-smelling fragrances. As Nicole explains: 'Strong scents like perfumes and scented lotions will attract mosquitoes.'
Rather than your usual perfume, try spritzing yourself with an essential oil like cedarwood to ward off these pests, or opt for a special repellent spray if you plan to spend time outdoors after dark. 'Spays are also a good idea if you are planning on going hiking or on a long walk,' adds Sophie.
7. Plant some mosquito repellent plants
Last but not least, you can always turn to a bit of gardening in a bid to keep mosquitoes at bay. There are plenty of mosquito repellent plants out there, most of them herbs, that have a fragrance the flying critters can't stand.
'Among the top choices for this purpose are citronella, lavender, rosemary, basil, and mint,' Nicole says. 'Citronella is highly popular for its mosquito-repelling properties, emitting a citrusy scent that mosquitoes find displeasing, while the likes of rosemary, basil, and mint can double up for your cooking!'
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For style leaders and design lovers.
Lilith Hudson is the Staff Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.
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