Ask Martha: Martha Stewart

July 28, 2007

Dear Martha: Can you suggest some natural methods for controlling mosquitoes?

Dear Reader: The best way to reduce the number of these bugs around your home is to prevent them from breeding. Females lay eggs in stagnant water. Within a couple of weeks, the eggs will transform into full-grown adults. Check your property frequently for standing water. Overturn or remove anything that holds water. Be sure gutters and downspouts are clear, and keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated.

If you have a still body of water on your property, treat it with a product that contains the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis var. israeliensis, or Bti.

Available at home-supply stores and online, Bti is sold as pellets or disks that float in water; one application lasts about a month. Plants and animals are unaffected by Bti, so you may use it in water gardens and birdbaths. Do not use Bti, or any repellent, in salt marshes or other wetlands.

Since mosquitoes can fly up to 20 miles from where they hatch, they will likely still find their way to your backyard. If reapplied continually, repellent sprays containing plant oils can be effective alternatives. Citronella oil can also discourage mosquitoes. However, the effectiveness of citronella candles depends on wind direction and people's proximity.

Concentrated garlic spray has proved very adept at repelling mosquitoes over a large area, such as a garden or backyard. Apply the spray to plants, trees and lawns, and reapply periodically throughout the summer. Its strong smell dissipates in an hour or so, but the product will continue to work.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

Distributed by New York Times Syndicate

(Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.)