Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year-round, but the population is largest and most active from May through November. That’s right, Austin. It’s mosquito season again.

Many homeowners choose to hire a professional pest control service to treat the yard. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a number of insecticides for residential spraying as generally safe when used properly. 

Even so, the Centers for Disease Control and EPA agree that for reducing insect populations around your yard, integrated pest management is the best method. That’s to say, before applying harsh chemicals, try out these mosquito-control tactics:

 

Eliminate standing water

The yearly battle against mosquitoes in the yard begins with getting rid of likely breeding areas. 

Mosquitoes lay eggs in still water. So, of course, you’ll want to be vigilant about eliminating (or treating) any standing water, no matter how little there is. Think plastic toys, saucers under containers, or old tarps that might be lying around. Some types of mosquitoes take advantage of damp soil and debris, mulch, and foliage that traps water. That means staying on top of mowing the lawn, keeping weedy areas under control, and clearing away decaying logs and leaf piles. 

Here’s your checklist:
  • Empty water that’s collected in children’s toys, garden pots, buckets, trash can lids, wheelbarrows, or other items lying around that could collect water.
  • Inspect gutters for clogs and clean them regularly to prevent water collection.
  • If you have a birdbath, change the water regularly.
  • Walk your property and address any low spots in the lawn that collect water or areas that have poor drainage.

 

Apply a repellant

If you plan to do work in your yard or even just sit out on your patio, remember that mosquitoes are most active during early morning and twilight hours. During these times, use an EPA-approved personal repellent. 

Traditional mosquito repellent sprays usually contain an ingredient called DEET or picaridin. While highly effective at preventing mosquito bites, these ingredients can cause skin irritation in those with sensitivity. Always follow the instructions and be sure to thoroughly wash the spray off the skin when protection from mosquitoes is no longer required.

Natural alternatives such as citronella provide only limited protection from mosquitoes, but are a good component of any multifaceted mosquito-repelling strategy. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide (which everyone breathes out), and citronella is thought to act as a mask, covering up scents which attract mosquitoes. Eucalyptus oil is also known to be quite effective.

Note: Although some scents work as a repellent for mosquitoes, other body lotions or perfumes can actually attract these pests. The best thing to do is stay away from fancy-smelling perfumes, colognes, body washes, or lotions if you plan on spending time outside during high mosquito activity hours.

 

Try a shrub or scent

While scientific studies have found little evidence of plants repelling mosquitoes, some shrubs are thought to be effective in preventing the breeding of mosquitoes nearby. The theory goes that these plants give off natural odors that mosquitoes simply can’t stand.

Smells mosquitoes hate include:
  • Lemongrass
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Cedarwood
  • Basil
  • Clove
  • Sage
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary

You can channel these scents with essential oils, candles, and lanterns, which commonly employ a base of citronella, lavender, or lemongrass. These methods rely on diffusion, meaning they work best in small areas without a lot of air movement.

 

Create a physical barrier

Still used in most of the world, nets and screens were the original form of pest control. A cotton, polyethylene, polyester, polypropylene, or nylon mesh no wider than 1.5 millimeters (0.059 in) should stop mosquitoes, according to the World Health Organization.

Netting comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from covering just one person to an entire area. Outdoor-gear stores carry head drapes that cover your neck, tunics that cover the upper half of the body, and even full-leg protection. A patio or deck net may require more customization, but it really can save your outdoor space on a beautiful summer night.

Your regular clothing is a good barrier for mosquitoes too, so if you know you’ll be out at dusk or dawn (when they’re most active), wear loose-fitting, full-coverage clothes. As it turns out, mosquitoes are also attracted to darker-colored materials — especially black, dark blue, and red — so light colors are even better.