Keep annoying mosquitoes at bay without hurting environment

June 18, 2005 The Detroit News

By Jeff Ball / Special to The Detroit News

Mosquito season has arrived in our yard. Surrounded by three swamps, our place can become mosquito heaven. Still, it's possible to keep these pests under control.

First, a little prevention. You can't drain a swamp, but you can eliminate mosquito breeding places where water doesn't move, such as old tires and unused watering cans. Unfortunately, mosquitoes can travel more than a mile from their breeding site, so while it's good to reduce breeding areas in your yard, there are hundreds more within a mile radius of your home. If we have rainy weather any time during the growing season, we will have mosquitoes. A puddle that lasts for a week can be a breeding site for these flying needles.

My goal is to keep the number of mosquitoes in my yard down to a level where they are not a problem for us or our guests when we are outdoors. What concerns me is most of the products sold to control mosquitoes contain broad-spectrum insecticides, such as permethrin, resmethrin and tetraperm, which kill most of the insects coming in contact with the product.

If you use a broad spectrum insecticide over your entire property, you kill all the beneficial insects along with your mosquitoes. In a lawn, where mosquitoes often rest, these products will kill all the beneficial ants, spiders, and ground beetles, making your lawn much more vulnerable to lawn grass pests such as chinch bugs, sod webworms and grubs. Those insecticides are, however, effective and appropriate for dealing with a pest insect on a single shrub or a small group of plants in the garden.

I have found two options for keeping the mosquito problem in hand without harming any other part of our ecosystem.

Mosquito Barrier is a liquid concentrate made of very strong garlic. Mixed with water and sprayed on the yard, it will kill any mosquitoes it touches, and more importantly, will repel mosquitoes for up to a month. Yes, your yard smells like garlic for a few hours, but then the odor dissipates. Mosquitoes with their sense of smell being 10,000 times more sensitive than ours will continue to smell it enough to stay away for weeks.

A quart of the Mosquito Barrier concentrate ($23) will cover a little over an acre. The label recommends reapplying Mosquito Barrier every three weeks for reliable control. We had an outside party for 30 folks last July 4, and I sprayed Mosquito Barrier over about a half-acre of grass, gardens and wildflowers the day before. We had no reports of any mosquitoes during the party. The stuff really worked for us.

There are lots of tips and advice about how to use Mosquito Barrier on their Web site, This product can be found in the better independent garden centers and on the Web.

We have tested the Mosquito Magnet trapping machine ( for two years. Mosquitoes usually find humans by detecting the carbon dioxide that is in our breath when we exhale. The Mosquito Magnet creates that same cloud of carbon dioxide, powered by propane gas. The carbon dioxide, along with a pheromone lure, attracts the mosquitoes to the machine, and a small fan pulls the critters into a bag trap, where they die. Once you set up the machine and turn it on, you leave it running all summer. Running full time, it uses about one tank of propane gas a month. Periodically, you need to empty the bag trap, but that is about all the maintenance that is involved.

These machines come in several sizes. The smallest, the Defender model, covers about a half-acre and costs around $260. The Liberty model covers up to 1 acre and costs about $430. They can be found at English Gardens, Home Depot, Ace Hardware Stores and on the Web.

Getting season-long protection from mosquitoes is definitely possible. Your choice is between spending time or money. It takes some time to spray Mosquito Barrier over the yard four or five times, or you spend some money to let the Mosquito Magnet do the job for you.

Jeff Ball, a Metro Detroit freelance writer, has authored eight books on gardening and lawn care and was the gardening expert on NBC's "Today Show" for eight years. You can visit his yard care Web site at E-mail him at