Besides the triple digit degree days, the worst part of Summer in Austin is the mosquitos. Just when you want to enjoy the sun going down, a nice BBQ and a cool breeze on the patio (we don’t get many), the bugs come out and attack. All of the sudden I’m fighting off mosquitos like Brad Pitt in the zombie apocalypse flick: World Ward Z.
I also frequently get asked about mosquito remedies for the home from clients. If you’re like my wife and I, you’ve probably tried Citronella candles and lathering up with DEET spray. The latter bugged my wife (pun intended) when we had our daughter. Who wants to spray toxic bug juice on their baby?
So what do you do when these just aren’t cutting it? Here are some things that work!
Lawn Spray + Dawn Dish Soap
Take your favorite mosquito lawn spray (Cutter and OFF make decent insecticides) and mix the recommended portion with about ¼ a bottle of regular size Dawn dish soap (get the original blue soap). Spray this on your lawn as directed especially on vegetation, the foliage of bushes and shrubs, lower limbs of shade trees, tall grass and shaded areas. You can also use local services like Mosquito Joe which use an all-natural insecticide.
Insect traps like DynaTrap use the warmth and glow of UV light combined with C02 to lure in mosquitos and other bugs, catching them and preventing them from escaping. The downside is that you have to empty out the bugs from time to time depending on how much uses it gets and how many critters are in your yard. It typically is more effective on smaller suburban yards.
Bats and Chickens
Some people in Austin swear by bat houses to keep the mosquitos at bay. Experts say bats can catch up to 600 mosquitos in one hour. In Austin, where we have a bat colony of up to 1 million bats in peak season, that could mean good news for homeowners. Most bat houses, when placed properly, can be occupied within six months to a year. However, it is not a complete solution to keeping pesky mosquitos at bay because it relies on feeding times and diet – mosquitos are just one option on the menu for bats. Others in Austin say keeping chickens has reduced the number of mosquitos in their yard. It’s true chickens do peck at mosquitos and ticks but certainly don’t eat them at scale.
Many plants with a strong fragrance are known to keep mosquitos away such as scented geraniums, marigolds and rosemary. What makes rosemary so great in Texas is that it grows like wild fire and can be placed near shrubs and by water where mosquitoes tend to hang out. It also smells nice!
These are essentially mosquito burning incense shaped into a spiral. You burn them 15 minutes before going outside, and then blow it out when finished. Each one covers 10 feet and lasts several days. It is best to hang them above plants and mulch, and around where you will be sitting or playing like on a patio. They smell like a very faint campfire and give off incense-like smoke. Some have more potent smells then others. The coils come pressed together so you have to pop them apart some, but be cautious in buying them online because they are fragile and can break during shipping.
Install a Misting System
There are several companies in town including Mosquito Control System and Mosquito Nix that will install a system in your yard. Much like an irrigation system for watering grass, it mists mosquito repellant (typically permethrin-based) into your yard twice a night and as needed. Misting systems are above ground and attach to your fence line and/or trees. Each mister head is typically installed every 10 feet, so depending on the size of your yard an installation could run a few thousand dollars plus another hundred for monthly routine maintenance and refills. Most homeowners I’ve talked to experience a 70-90% reduction in mosquitos (and other pests). You also own the system so can remove it and take it with you when you move, or sell it with house as feature.