Safe, Effective Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes and Ticks
Mosquitoes seem to take over our yards this time of year. Mosquito control companies are offering treatments for suburban yards — twice monthly, yard-wide spraying — to kill both mosquitoes and ticks. These mixtures are effective, but they aren’t necessarily best for children, pregnant women, pets and pollinators. Risks and safer steps for insect control include:
Avoid yard-wide sprays, misters and foggers
All chemical sprays come with potential hazards. Consumer Reports recommends avoiding misters and foggers because of possible endocrine and neurological impacts for people. Even natural, yard-wide sprays are a concern. All brands kill not only mosquitoes and ticks, but all the other insects in your yard as well, including populations of bees and butterflies already in steep decline from parasites, pesticides, climate change and habitat loss.
Natural yard-wide treatments with oils concentrated from plants like rosemary and lavender can cause allergic skin reactions. They have wide-ranging risks including to fertility and pregnancy at higher exposures. Synthetic yard treatment pesticides called pyrethroids are similar to chemicals in chrysanthemum flowers. They are marketed as safe, but the EPA has classified the most popular form as likely to cause cancer in humans, and they are often linked to asthma and allergies among other risks, especially in children.
Safer bets for mosquito and tick control
CDC advises prevention first — cover up and use insect repellent on exposed skin. The most important thing you can do to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard is to remove the water where they breed: keep your gutters clean and birdbaths and yard equipment free of still water. Keep your lawn mowed, and pick up leaf litter to reduce ticks. Use a tall pedestal fan at the grill or patio table to drive mosquitoes away without the need for chemical repellants. Wear light-colored, loose clothing to cut down on bites.
You’ll find recommendations for safer, effective insect repellants that can be applied to exposed skin from Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports. A top pick is Picaridin bug repellent for mosquitos and ticks, a pepper-like ingredient as effective as DEET but with fewer downsides. Insect repellents aren’t safe for infants under six months old; protect them with clothing, netting and fans instead. The CDC website also has up-to-date advice for protecting your family from bites.
Steps to minimize exposure, if you choose yard-wide spray services
If you choose yard-wide treatments, take steps to reduce your exposure. You’ll be warned by the company to stay out of the yard for a bit after spraying, but it’s safest for your family and pets to remain indoors with your air conditioner off for at least several hours during and after treatment. Consider notifying your neighbors of the spray schedule, so they can better plan their outdoor time. It’s not safe for them to breathe the fumes, either. Ask the applicator how they will minimize drift to your neighbors’ yards, especially to vegetable and pollinator gardens.