Few things are more annoying than a persistent mosquito, but it’s easy to forget they are also dangerous. Humans are vulnerable to several potentially fatal mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, Zika, West Nile, Chikungunya, and dengue fever. A severe allergic reaction, “Skeeter Syndrome,” can also be life-threatening.
Popular synthetic chemical sprays like Deet can deter mosquitoes. Research shows Deet to be generally safe. It is approved by federal agencies like the EPA, CDC, and USDA (for anyone over two months old). Still, many people are hesitant to spray these chemicals on their skin, especially if they need to use the spray daily. Luckily if you aren’t comfortable with Deet, there are many effective natural solutions.
This guide reviews all the best ways to get rid of mosquitoes naturally and debunks some commonly recommended methods that don’t work, so you can find a combination of strategies that works for you.
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How To Get Rid of Mosquitoes Naturally
Mosquitoes may be tiny, but you need to look at the big picture if you want a truly effective natural solution. Your best bet is a two-track approach. Personal prevention (like spraying your skin) will help, but if you want to solve the problem, you need to address the environmental factors that invite mosquitoes to live around your home.
1. Use Plants to Repel Mosquitoes
One easy way to keep mosquitos away from your home is using scented plants mosquitoes hate. You can use these plants in a variety of ways. Many will have some effect merely by growing and emitting their natural fragrance, but you can brush against them to release the scent or rub them directly on your skin for an even stronger effect.
Lemongrass and lemon thyme are two herbs with a citrus scent that makes an effective mosquito deterrent. Many edible plants in the mint family (including basil and thyme, for example) are tasty. They deter not only mosquitoes but also other bugs that might nibble on your tomatoes and other veggies.
There are attractive flowering plants that have a smell mosquitoes seem to dislike. Try planting lavender, scented geranium, or marigolds, for example, and you’ll have a beautiful garden you can relax in without having to swat quite as many mosquitos.
For more suggestions on what to grow, check out our article on eighteen plants that repel mosquitos.
2. Remove Breeding Locations
Nobody intentionally attracts mosquitoes, but from a mosquito’s point of view, your yard may look like an ideal mosquito motel; plenty of vacancies, free breakfast, and comfortable waterbeds for making sweet, sweet mosquito love.
Even small amounts of standing water (clean or murky) make a perfect mosquito breeding ground. And, a single night of steamy mosquito passion can result in hundreds of eggs! Here’s how you can remove breeding locations and break the cycle.
1. Use A Fine Mesh Screen
If you have intentional water capture areas outside (uncovered rain barrels, birdbaths, fountains, or water dishes for pets), start by getting rid of those. If you need to keep rain barrels, cover them with a fine mesh screen to stop mosquitoes from getting in and laying eggs.
2. Check For Standing Water
Next, check for clogged gutters, water collection trays beneath flower pots, and puddles under leaky spigots or hoses. Even yard equipment like lawnmowers and wheelbarrows, children’s toys, tree stumps, and plastic pool or boat covers can all trap water.
Loose tires are perhaps the most notorious location for mosquito nurseries. Walk around your property slowly, looking for anywhere water might accumulate even briefly.
3. Use A Pump
Some pools are a problem, and others aren’t. A large, fully chlorinated swimming pool with a pump that circulates the water every day will not host mosquitoes. However, a simple untreated kiddie pool without a pump is a perfect breeding ground.
If you have a pond on your property, you can also use a pump or a waterfall to get the water circulating and make an effort to remove algae. You can also add chemicals or predatory animals to kill or eat mosquito larvae before they hatch.
4. Dump Stagnant Water
Most mosquito eggs go through their larval and pupal stages quickly, taking barely a week to become adults. That means you can avoid hatchlings in untreated pools (or birdbaths or water dishes for pets) if you dump them out and refill them with fresh water every few days.
3. Kill Mosquito Larvae Before They Mature
If you need to keep standing water around (such as a birdbath, pond, or rain-barrels), you can kill mosquito larvae before they hatch. Mosquito Dunks kill larvae using “Bti” (Bacillus thuringiensis iraelensis), a natural bacterium derived from the soil.
Bti is an EPA-approved toxin that kills mosquitoes, blackflies, and fungus gnats but is safe for humans, pets, birds, fish, and beneficial insects.
Bti works well, but you can use several other potential additives to stop baby mosquitoes, such as vegetable oil or dish soap. For more suggestions on killing larvae naturally, check out this guide.
4. Invite Predators to your yard
One of the best natural ways to win the war against mosquitoes is to rally a team of powerful predator allies. The ideal predators to attract are bats. Little brown bats particularly love mosquitoes. Bats are good neighbors, but if you’re afraid of them, some birds eat mosquitoes that you can attract instead.
Hang a bat house or a species-specific bird nesting box to encourage aerial predators to move in. For suggestions about useful birds to attract, check out our guide to some of the best mosquito predators.
If you have a pond, add aquatic predators that love to eat larvae, such as guppies and minnows. Other fish will eat some mosquito larvae, such as bluegill, catfish, goldfish, and koi. Mosquito fish are very effective, but they are banned in states where they are an invasive species. Contact your local Department of Natural Resources to ask about the best species to use in your area. Some DNRs even give away free mosquito fish.
Red-eared slider turtles, frogs, and tadpoles are more great mosquito-eating critters to add to your pond. You can also try to attract waterfowl that eat mosquitoes such as ducks, geese, and terns.
Lastly, you can encourage a war of bug versus bug. Dragonflies and spiders are both known for eating lots of mosquitoes, so welcome them to your property. However, crane flies (the long-legged insect commonly known as “mosquito eaters”) do not, in fact, eat mosquitoes, only nectar.
5. Use Wind
Research has shown that the wind produced by an electric fan is quite effective at reducing mosquitoes in the area. This seems to be due to a combination of factors. Most importantly, the fan reduces the attractive scents hovering in the area (such as your body odor and the carbon dioxide you’re exhaling).
As a bonus, the wind makes it more difficult for mosquitoes (who are not actually very good at flying) to buzz around looking for an opportune moment to bite. A nice breeze and no mosquitoes is a win-win scenario for summer evenings on the porch.
6. Use a C02 Mosquito Trap
These traps work by attracting mosquitos using C02 and other sensory cues such as fragrance, movement, and vibration. A fan then pulls them in and traps them in a catch bag.
While these devices are based on sound scientific principles, the jury is still out for independent research confirming their effectiveness. They definitely attract and kill mosquitoes; the question is whether they kill enough of the mosquitoes they attract to decrease the number of bites you’ll get.
However, if you’re in an area where other methods aren’t enough (for example, if your neighbor has lots of old tires piled up and won’t get rid of them), this may be a great option to try.
7. Use a Bug Zapper
Some people advocate bug zappers to combat mosquitoes because they are “natural” in the sense of being nontoxic. Still, scientists have found that these devices are almost totally ineffective when it comes to killing mosquitoes.
That’s because mosquitoes are drawn to the scent of C02 and your body; they are not attracted to light. Another big downside of bug zappers is that they kill many beneficial insects, including insects that eat mosquitoes.
So the science says it doesn’t work, but you may want to try a bug zapper if you have run out of other options.
8. Keep Your Garden in Check
While we tend to think of mosquitoes as blood-suckers, blood isn’t the primary mosquito diet. Male mosquitoes eat only nectar, no blood at all. On the other hand, females eat both nectar and blood, but they only seek out blood when they’re going to reproduce. That means you can make your yard less appealing to mosquitoes by avoiding night-blooming flowers with nectar they enjoy.
During the day, when they aren’t feeding and breeding, mosquitoes like to spend their time sheltered from the sun and wind. They prefer warm, shady, humid areas, such as long grass or lush shrubbery.
Make sure to clear out piles of yard waste, such as grass clippings, leaves, and dead branches. A single dead leaf can hold enough water after a rainstorm to incubate a brood of mosquito larvae.
9. Mow Your Lawn Regularly
Lawn maintenance is another important factor. Tall grass traps moisture between the blades, creating a great environment for sleeping and breeding. So, make it a habit to mow at least once a week. Cut as short as possible as your grass type permits.
10. Try These Natural Mosquito Repellents
Female mosquitoes (the only ones that bite) are attracted by the scent of the carbon dioxide we exhale. Once drawn in by the C02, they target us using our body heat and body odor, especially the lactic acid in sweat. That means masking our scent with natural repellants can be very effective.
Some people say natural repellents don’t work, but they probably just weren’t using them correctly. Natural repellants degrade quickly and, when applied topically (on the skin) and they are washed away easily by sweat. That means they need to be reapplied more frequently than you’d expect. While an 80% DEET formulation will protect for ten hours, natural repellants need to be reapplied as often as every 1-2 hours.
Keep in mind that different sub-species of mosquitoes are attracted and repelled by different scents. If you use an effective deterrent every hour but still get bites, you may be using the wrong product for the particular mosquitoes in your area.
Try researching which types of mosquitoes are most prevalent where you live. Then use this table of mosquito research studies to find a natural deterrent that has been proven to work on your specific sub-species of mosquito. If that sounds like too much work, just try a different option from the list below. Or, even better, combine several natural deterrents for a broad-spectrum solution.
However, a few commonly referenced deterrents will do little to nothing to stop mosquitoes, so read on to find out which natural deterrents really work.
Citronella candles are a familiar form of mosquito control with a long history of use by campers. Citronella is available in many other forms, including sprays, oils, and incense.
Applying citronella oil topically (on the skin) is a strong deterrent, but frequently you need to apply it depending on how strong the concentration is, so follow the package instructions. This citronella oil-based bug spray (which also includes lemongrass oil and cedar oil) is a favorite in my household.
Citronella has a proven anti-mosquito effect, although it is not as long-lasting as DEET. Look for citronella products that also contain vanillin (the substance that makes vanilla smell good), making citronella last longer.
You can also grow citronella, which is a grass related to the culinary plant lemongrass.
How To Use: Burn candles or incense, grow citronella grass near your porch, or apply oil or spray topically once an hour or as needed.
Pro Tip: Unfortunately, unscrupulous businesses now market unrelated plants like citronella, falsely labeling them “anti-mosquito.” Specifically, Pelargonium citrosum is a geranium that smells like citronella to humans but has no deterrent effect on mosquitoes.
2. Lemon Eucalyptus
The essential oil made from lemon eucalyptus plants has been clinically proven to be excellent (70-100% effective) at deterring mosquitoes. While it is not FDA-approved as a repellent, it is recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for use in areas with malaria and other mosquito-borne pathogens due to its proven efficacy and harmlessness to humans.
How To Use: Apply topically every hour to maintain the deterrent effect.
3. Clove Oil
Cloves aren’t only great for mulled wine and pumpkin spice lattes; they make a very effective mosquito deterrent. Using 100% clove essential oil topically has been found to deter 100% of mosquitoes for more than three hours. Essential oils can be expensive, but because clove oil has a longer-lasting effect than some others, you’ll need less of it.
How To Use: Apply topically every 3 hours.
4. Mint and related herbs
Most people don’t know that the mint family (Lamiaceae) is very broad and includes the expected plants (like peppermint and spearmint) and other herbs like basil, thyme, and patchouli. Scientists have found that many plants in this family have a strong deterrent effect on mosquitoes.
In general, research indicates that depending on the plant type, members of the mint family have a mild to strong deterrent effect (20-70%) when burned, a moderate effect (40-50%) when used in the form of fresh plants (whether kept as potted plants in the vicinity, or crushing the leaves and applying them topically), and total protection (near 100%) for an hour or more when applied topically in the form of essential oil.
Some of the species tested include:
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, aka “tulsi basil”)
- American Basil (Ocimum americanum, aka “lime basil”)
- Bushmint (Hyptis suaveolens)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Patchouli (Pogostemom)
- Lavender (Lavandula)
How To Use: Apply topically every hour or as needed.
There is a popular idea that eating garlic deters mosquitoes, but that claim is just as mythical as the relationship between garlic and vampires. However, you can reduce bites by tricking the mosquitoes into eating the garlic.
Garlic makes an effective weapon against mosquitoes when sprayed on your foliage rather than your body. In that form, a sprayed liquid mixture made of garlic extract and sugar is called an ATSB (attractive toxic sugar bait), such as this product.
The sugar encourages mosquitoes to eat the garlic, which interferes with their reproductive process. Research has shown garlic and sugar ATSBs to be a very effective method.
How To Use: Spray a garlic-based ATSB on the grass and leaves around your house, and you will see a major decrease in the mosquito population. The effect typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Camphor oil is an effective mosquito deterrent when applied topically every hour or so. Specifically, it was shown to have an 80-97% effectiveness rate against certain mosquitoes but no noted effect on others. However, breathing camphor can irritate the lungs and cause a variety of negative health impacts, so we do not recommend using it.
How To Use: Apply topically every hour.
7. Coffee Grounds
You will find many sources online claiming that coffee or coffee grounds repel mosquitoes. Many of these articles even claim that the EPA recommends drinking coffee or scattering coffee grounds for this purpose. That is false.
Some research suggests putting coffee grounds in outdoor water containers deters female mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water or that the grounds were detrimental to the larvae growing in the water.
That means that if you have standing water where you know mosquito breeding is likely (inside your old tires, for example), you can try this method. However, don’t count on the smell of coffee for any substantial deterrent value.
How To Use: Scatter coffee grounds in containers of standing water.
8. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is used worldwide for its antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. That means it makes a good treatment after the fact if you do end up with some mosquito bites. However, tea tree oil is also known to be effective at repelling mosquitoes and certain flies and midges.
How To Use: Simply apply to the skin, whether in the form of essential oil, an alcohol-based spray, or a gel.
9. Other plants
Oils derived from a variety of other plants are known to have a strong deterrent effect on mosquitoes when applied to the skin. These include mugwort, soybeans, kaffir lime, and turmeric. However, these essential oils are more difficult to find than some listed in this guide.
How To Use: Apply topically every hour or as needed.
10. Pinion Wood
Some kinds of wood smoke effectively deter some kinds of mosquitoes, although smoke is generally less effective than topical deterrents. Anecdotally, many people say throwing a pinion log on your fire pit will keep your backyard mosquito-free. Still, there does not seem to be any scientific evidence available to back up this claim.
11. Avoid Neem Oil
Neem oil is an extract from a mahogany tree, commonly used for pest control in the garden. It is toxic in large amounts, is not FDA approved, and banned in some locations. However, it is used in some beauty products and is commonly used worldwide for various purposes. Neem does have a moderate to strong deterrent effect on mosquitoes (in oil with a small percentage of Neem, 1-2%), but because of the lack of research establishing safe usage guidelines, we cannot recommend it.
The End Of Mosquitos In Your Yard
By eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and using a combination of natural oils as a topical deterrent, you’ll turn a persistent mosquito problem into an occasional annoyance. You won’t win every battle with mosquitoes, but you may just win the war if you adopt a multifaceted strategy.