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Turn a Triple Play Against Nasty Mosquitoes

This Summer:Prevention to Trapping toRepelling---Theyyyy're OUT!

Q. Dear Mr. McGrath: My lovelyEnglish Basement apartment includes a charmingsunken brick patio with a 6" diameter storm drain in the center. Everysummer, the mosquitoes take up residence in the drain and eat aliveanyone whodares step outside the house. I want to reclaim my patio! Most of theinformation I have found recommends larvicides. Would they work? Igreatlyappreciate any and all insight you may have.
               ---Alicia; Washington, DC

A. Hey, Alicia-I'm the one whoMOST appreciates 'any and all insights' thatturn up in my poor head. (When one does, I figure it probably gotlost.) But Ican answer your question-and use it to help others avoid gettin' bittenthisseason-with a three-point plan for denying those bloodsuckers brunch onus.

1. PREVENT!
The best thing I ever learned about mosquitoes is that they don'ttravel farfrom where they breed, so if you take care of wet areas on yourproperty,you'll GREATLY cut the mosquito population around your house for therest ofthe season. First, do a 'water collection' inspection: Emptywheelbarrows,boats, buckets, and other water-collecting objects; clean out cloggedgutters(an often-neglected breeding site); and change the water in birdbathstwice aweek. Then get some "BTI".

The 'BT' stands for Bacillis thuringensis-a group of naturalsoil-dwellingorganisms. The 'I' stands for israelensis, the specific 'strain' of Btthatkills baby mosquitoes (and blackflies!) before they can leave the waterasbiting adults. Available as granules or floating 'dunks' andbriquettes, BTIharms NOTHING else. Birds and fish can even eat 'Bt ed' mosquito andblackflylarva without any harm. Apply it to ponds, fountains and other standingwater,and you'll have MANY fewer adults trying to suck you later.

Alicia: This is likely the larvacide you mentioned. BTI treatmentsgenerallylast a month (that's how long the dunks and briquettes work in ponds),but thatdrain water probably changes after every rain, so I'd shake a fewgranules downthere once a week. And, because the water down there isn't 'standing'all thetime, I might instead try cutting a regular window screen to fit overthe topof the drain and then tape or glue it in place.

Anyway, some of the brand names BTI is sold under include Skeetal,Vectobac,Mosquito Attack, Gnatrol, and Bactimos. I found my big yellow plasticshakerjug of "Dexol Mosquito Free Granules" at a local hardware store, andI've seenthe granules and dunks at lots of garden centers. Mail-order too.

Anyway, some of the brand names BTI is sold under include Skeetal,Vectobac,Mosquito Attack, Gnatrol, and Bactimos. I found my big yellow plasticshakerjug of "Dexol Mosquito Free Granules" at a local hardware store, andI've seenthe granules and dunks at lots of garden centers.
They're widely available via mail-order too; "Mosquito Zapper"is one ofmany companies that sells both granulesand dunks.

2. TRAP!
Last season, I had the chance to test a number of mosquito-trappingdevices. Iwas not impressed with the "Sonic Web" (the one Hammacher-Schlemmersells asthe Sonic Insect Trap in their catalogs). It didn't catch manymosquitoes, butit did catch a lot of beneficials, and it seemed to work better when itwasturned off! And it traps the pests on a giant visible lampshade kind ofthingthat is very gross to look at.

The machine that really seemed to do the job was The Mosquito Magnet.You'veseen these things all around-they mimic human scent with a chemicalattractantcalled octenol and by using a gas-grill sized propane tank to createcarbondioxide; then the machines trap the attracted skeeters by sucking theminto anet. The 'Defender' (the cheapest model at around $300; protects halfan acre)and 'Liberty'(around $500; ¾ acre.) both require electricity. The Pro size(over $1000; butit protects a full acre) is self-powered; no cord. The machines arewidelyavailable, both retail and mail-order.

Oh and PS: Nasty backyard bug zapper DON'T kill mosquitoes. Even worse,they DOkill lots of bugs that eat mosquitoes! Unplug it-its part of theproblem, notthe solution!

3. REPEL!
LARGE SCALE: Research has shown that mosquitoes avoid areas wherehigh-concentration garlic sprays have been used. Garlic! I knew it:They AREvampires! Anyway, one such product I see in a lot of retail stores isVictor's"Mosquito Barrier"; but there are lots of other brands out there aswell, mostin ready-to-use hose-end sprayer bottles; just check and make sure that"garlicoil" is the active ingredient. Spray it on your yard the day before abig partyor other outdoor event and the garlic smell will go away after a fewhours, butthe mosquitoes will stay out for 2 weeks!

PERSONAL: Last season, I spoke with the author of a fabulous 2002 NewEnglandJournal of Medicine study on repellants. Very well-run study:Volunteers stucktheir arms inside cages of hungry female mosquitoes to see what workedand whatdidn't.

What didn't work: Avon Skin so Softkept thepests away for less than ten minutes. Wristbands didn't work atall-whethertheir active ingredient was herbal or the chemical repellant DEET. Buttwochemical-free products DID work really well:

"Bite Blocker". Made by "HOMS", a North Carolinacompany,this combination of soybean, geranium and coconut oils providedcomplete protectionfor an hour and half, beating one of the DEET products tested. ButCanadianresearchers got even better results in two 1996 field trials-three anda halfhours of 'complete' protection (much better than the DEET product theytested)in both studies. Available at some retail outlets, and Gardens Alivesells itmail-order, calling it "StingFree".
"Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellant". This plant-based productprovided completeprotection for an average of two hours. Widely available, especially atcampingstores; just make sure you get the right stuff-Repel also makes lots ofchemical insect repellants.

I also suggest: Lemon-scented plants; many provide excellent protectionwhenyou crush up their leaves and rub them on your skin. ("The amazing mosquito-repellingplant" is actually a lemon-scented geranium.). In studies at the University of Guelphin Canada,lemon thymewas the best 'crush and rub' repellant (62% the repellency of the nastyhigh-concentration DEET product, "Deep Woods Off"!). I personally uselemon balminstead; it also works great, and it's MUCH easier to grow HUGEamounts.(Warning: This member of the mint family grows aggressively and must becontrolled.)

On the horizon: Catnip!Perhaps the best plant-based repellant discovered so far, the University of Iowahas patented the active ingredient as a mosquito stopper, and we shouldseeproducts that use it soon. In the meantime, try rubbing some leaves onyourskin. Just don't complain if the cat tries to bat you around the floor.

Chemicals: I wouldn't use DEET if you paid me-large amounts of thischemicalrepellant are absorbed directly thru the skin and then pass throughyourkidneys and liver on the way out. If you feel you MUST complement oneof the'herbals that work', spray your clothes (not your skin-it won't hurtyou, itjust evaporates right away) with one of the .5% permethrin spraysgenerallysold for tick-bite prevention. (Repel and Sawyer both sell such sprays.Butagain, be careful-they also both sell a lot of harsher and combination(withDEET) products; so read labels carefully. You want a spray thatcontains ONLY ahalf a percent of permethrin.) That combination should keep youvirtuallybite-free.

Unless I show up, of course….

You Bet Your Garden ©2004 Mike McGrath

HelpfulProducts from Gardens Alive!
Have problems Mosquitoes and other House-Hold Pests? Try some of theseitems!

No-Squito!™Mosquito Bioinsecticide
No-mess pouch kills mosquito larvae in the water where theylive
Drop the easy-to-use water-soluble pouch directly intostanding water. Within minutes its granules will release fast-acting Btisraelensisinto the water to target mosquito larvae.

StingFree Insect Bite Protector
Repels mosquitoes, ticks, and black flies without DEET!
All natural Sting Free provides protection without the the worries ofDEET.Gentle enough to use everyday and on children

Cupboard Moth Trap

Stop Indian Moths from Ruining yout Pantry!
The Trap draws pantry moths with a patented striped pattern andpowerfullpheromones. It then traps the moths on a sticky surface. They'renon-toxic andfree of pesticides plus Lures last for 12 weeks.

LiquidAnt Killer and Bait Holders
A neat, Tidy, convenient way to stop ant invasions in your home
Red ants, sugar ants, pharaoh ants and other sugar-feeding householdants eatthe bait with borax and carry it back to their colony. The ant colonyshould bedestroyed in 7-10 Days!

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