Many communities spray to help control mosquito populations, but even those that don’t can reduce the risk of a nuisance bite and potentially life-threatening disease by taking a few simple steps. The most effective mosquito controls are repellents applied to skin or clothing and physical barriers that prevent the pests from reaching you.
First, clean up any stagnant water in your yard and around the house. Mosquitoes lay eggs in anything that holds water for more than a few days, including buckets, baby pools, flower pots and garbage cans. Also, drain any standing water from the bottom of bird baths, tires, rain gutters and other outdoor equipment.
Planting flowers that repel mosquitoes like marigolds, lantana and lavender can keep the bugs at bay, especially when combined with other proven control methods, says Gray. Herbal thyme and catnip plants are also good choices. The oils from these plants can be used in candles, reed diffusers and on skin for repellents.
One study found that thyme oil offered 91 percent protection to hairless mice, and the essential oil of holy basil (also known as tulsi) offers 85 percent protection on human skin. Other studies showed that cinnamon and geranium oil repelled mosquitoes for two hours, and neem oil (from the neem tree, Azadirachta indica) offered 90 minutes of protection.
If your community doesn’t spray, use a portable trap that emits carbon dioxide and the plant-based active ingredient 2-undecanone to lure mosquitoes away from you. The traps can be a bit noisy, and you’ll have to refill them frequently, but they’re much less toxic than DEET and other common products.