Best solutions to backyard mosquito problems

It is mosquito season again.

With concerns about West Nile Virus, many of us are afraid to use our back decks anymore.

Sure, you can cover yourself from head to toe with bug spray, but what if you want to get mosquitoes out of your yard, for good?

Wants to Take His Yard Back

Butch Reed has a yard full of mosquitoes at his home, and like a lot of homeowners, wants to take his yard back.

"You can see the woods back there, particularly in the wooded area; you get a lot of mosquitoes. And we just want to be able to enjoy our yard," Reed said.

So he decided to fight back. He ordered a $29 insect trap he saw advertised online called "My Mosquito Deleter."

The box states," The eggs go in and they don't come out."

"When they lay their eggs the eggs are supposed to fall down into the bottom," he said. "And they can't get out because of the design of the baffles."

Spray Products Popular

While we were waiting to see the results of the mosquito trap, we stopped at ACE hardware, which sells dozens of mosquito products from bug spray and citronella candles to smoking coils you place outside.

ACE manager John Doucleff said any spray you cover yourself with that contains DEET is effective. Concerned about the safety of DEET? Try out Avon's Skin so Soft, sold by Avon distributors, that many people swear by.

But Doucleff said he prefers backyard sprays -- such as those from Off and Cutter -- that you use a few hours before a cookout.

He also suggested a simple solution for patios: Set up a fan, because mosquitoes don't like wind.

"If you notice," Doucleff said. "On a windy day you don't get bit as much."

More wind means fewer mosquitoes.

More Permanent Solutions

But what if you want to get rid of mosquitoes permanently, not just for a few hours?

We went to one of the country's top bug experts, entomologist Dr. Gene Kritsky.

Kritsky -- who enjoyed international fame a few years ago as a top Cicada expert -- said the most important thing is to eliminate stagnant water.

"If you have a big heavy rainstorm followed by a heat wave, where the lows don't get below 71 for a week, you will get thousands of new mosquitoes from that event," said Kristky.

Check Flower Pots, Gutters

You might say, "I don't have any standing water in my yard, I don't have a pond nearby."

But look more closely. You might have a flower pot, and that's a perfect breeding ground."

"Check your gutters, check flower pots, and if you have a bird bath, empty it once, a week and put new water in," Kritsky said.

Top Rated Traps

But if eliminating water still leaves your yard buggy, Consumer Reports Magazine suggests a mosquito trap.

A top rated trap is the Mosquito Magnet that lures the bugs with carbon dioxide generated by a propane tank. It costs between $300 and $700, depending on model.

Others that generate carbon dioxide also work, the magazine said.

On a budget? The magazine said cheaper traps that don't generate gas can have some effectiveness, which brings us back to Butch Reed.

After just a week, he found some mosquito larvae in his $29 Mosquito Deleter, indicating mosquitoes had laid their eggs in it.

"It seems to be working," he said.

Reed hasn't yet won the war, but Reed said the Mosquito Deleter seems to be an effective start, by capturing their eggs before they hatch. (Consumer Reports magazine has not tested it, however.)

The Bottom Line

Kritsky said citronella candles and other smoking devices only work in very small areas, such as on a patio table.

For a yard full of bugs, he suggests, do the following 3 things:

1. Dry out all water, including gutters and flower pots.

2. Use an area spray, such as those from Cutter and Off. The versions you mount on a garden hose cover more area than aerosol cans.

3. As a last resort, purchase a trap. More expensive units that generate carbon dioxide do the best job, according to Consumer Reports.

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