By MELINDA MYERS
Dine, play, and enjoy your outdoor spaces more than ever this year by managing annoying and disease-spreading mosquitoes. Use a multifaceted approach to boost your enjoyment and help keep mosquitoes away.
Plan your outdoor activities when mosquitoes are less active. Females are the ones looking for a blood meal and are most active at dusk and dawn when looking for warmth and food.
Screened-in porches add a layer of protection but only when they are intact and properly sealed. The same applies to your home. Check screens and seals around doors and windows to help keep these pests from entering your home.
Use bug lights in light fixtures by entryways and in outdoor entertainment spaces. These emit yellow light that is not as attractive to mosquitoes and other insects. Bug lights will not eliminate every unwanted insect but will reduce the number visiting your lights at night and finding their way into your home.
Enhance the ambience and reduce mosquito issues when entertaining outdoors. Use a fan to create a cooler space and keep these weak flyers away. Provide fragrant subtle lighting with citronella oil and scented candles. Scatter them throughout the area and within a few feet of the guests for short-term relief.
Reduce the overall mosquito population in your yard by eliminating their breeding grounds. Empty water that collects in items left outside. Change the water in your birdbath at least weekly or whenever you water your container gardens. Add a bubbler or pump to keep water moving in fountains and ponds so mosquito larvae cannot survive.
Toss an organic mosquito control like Mosquito Dunks and Bits (SummitResponsibleSolutions.com) in your rain barrel, pond, or other water feature. Mosquito Bits quickly knock down the mosquito larval population, while the Mosquito Dunks provide 30 days of control. The active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a naturally occurring soil bacterium that kills the mosquito larvae but is safe for children, fish, pets, beneficial insects, and wildlife.
Keep your landscape looking its best by managing weeds and grooming neglected gardens. This eliminates some of the resting spaces for hungry adult mosquitoes.
Always protect yourself whenever outdoors. Cover as much of your skin as possible with loose fitting, light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are less attracted to the lighter colors and cannot readily reach your skin through loose clothing.
Further protect yourself by using a personal repellent approved by the EPA. For those looking for DEET-free options, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has approved products with the active ingredient picaridin, IR3535, and the synthetic oil of lemon and eucalyptus. Check the label for a list of active ingredients and safety recommendations when shopping for mosquito repellents. Avoid products that contain both sunscreen and insect repellent since you need to apply sunscreen more often than the repellent.
Spending more time outdoors is good for our mind, body, and spirit. Using a combination of mosquito-managing tactics will allow you to enjoy and benefit from your time outdoors.
(Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.)