Nothing ruins your summer faster than mosquitoes. With their painful bites, irritating buzzing, and the potential to spread diseases, these blood-sucking monsters can easily spoil your outdoor summer fun.
Mosquitoes are not easily controlled. During the height of mosquito season, they can easily get out of hand, especially if you live close to a source of standing water like a swamp.
While the best way to control mosquitoes is to attack them while they are still water-dwelling larvae, don’t despair if you already have adults swarming your property. These adults can be controlled effectively with sprays, and we are here to tell you the best yard sprays for mosquitoes.
Why Yard Sprays are Effective for Mosquito Control
First, when we say mosquito/yard spray, we’re talking about products you spray in your yard to kill and repel mosquitoes over a wide area. These are not the same as insect repellants that you spray on your skin, which keep mosquitoes away but don’t actually kill them.
Mosquitoes can’t fly 24/7 (though it seems that way when they are buzzing in your face). Eventually, they have to rest. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk, dawn, and at night, so they sleep on grass, leaves, and in flowerbeds.
When you spray this type of vegetation while mosquitoes are resting there, the mosquitoes are killed almost instantly. The sprays also leave a residue that repels mosquitoes for a few hours to several days (depending on the product and the application).
5 Best Yard Sprays for Mosquitoes
Natural Yard Sprays
In general, natural options are safer than chemical pesticides and cause less harm to other organisms, but they might have slightly less long-term killing power for extreme mosquito problems. Here are a few great natural options for mosquito sprays.
While the name of this spray is a bit intimidating, its active ingredients are all-natural. The main mosquito-killing ingredients in IC3 are rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and geraniol 600 (found in rose oil, palmarosa oil, and citronella oil).
The all-natural pesticides found in IC3 are safe for use around water as well as for family and pets, which is definitely not true of some harsher chemical pesticides. IC3 works by blocking a neurotransmitter (octopamine) in arthropods to disrupt their nervous system. IC3 doesn’t harm other organisms because only arthropods use this neurotransmitter.
IC3 kills insects on contact and will also kill insects after application through residue left on leaves. The residue can stay active for 2-4 weeks.
And if you’re worried that natural ingredients don’t work – don’t be! Studies have demonstrated the power of IC3 against arthropods. One particular study showed that IC3 is just as good as pytheroids (a common class of pesticides). Peppermint oil in particular has also been found to be repellant against other pests like spiders.
Wondercide uses a different active ingredient from IC3 (cedar oil), but has also been shown to be effective against arthropods in research studies. Wondercide is also very easy to use because it can attach to any garden hose to spray large areas quickly.
Wondercide and other cedar-oil products work by damaging the insects’ exoskeletons. This damage causes water to evaporate out of the insect, drying them out and killing them. The strongly scented oil can also interfere with pheromone communication.
Unlike IC3, Wondercide takes a few initial applications close together (7-10 days apart) to establish control over pests in the yard. After that, it can be reapplied every 30-45 days. As with any pest control product, your needs may differ from what the label says, so keep your eyes open for new mosquitoes.
A third natural option, Mosquito Barrier uses yet another new natural ingredient – garlic! Mosquitoes have an extremely sharp sense of smell, and potent garlic that isn’t discernable to humans is extremely repellent to mosquitoes.
To apply Mosquito Barrier, you mix 4 ounces with a gallon of water and spray on foliage an hour before sundown. You shouldn’t spray if it had just rained or if it’s going to rain in 24-48 hours. Studies have found Mosquito Barrier kills between 90-100% of mosquitoes after 24 hours.
Chemical Yard Sprays
While natural options are often a better choice because they don’t harm larger organisms, sometimes a severe problem warrants a chemical intervention. Chemical pesticides are much harsher, so they have more long-term killing power. But this has to be balanced with harm to the environment, since these chemicals are often as dangerous to other animals and humans as they are to insects.
Bifen IT is a very effective pesticide that controls a wide range of pests. It is reported to control 75 different insect pests, including mosquitoes. It lasts a long time, too – up to 3 months.
The active ingredient in Bifen IT, bifenthrin, works by attacking the nervous system of insects, paralyzing them. Because it doesn’t attack specific neurotransmitters like some of the natural treatments above, it’s also toxic to humans and other animals in large doses.
When used as directed, it’s very much safe for mammals, though. Bifen IT is one of the best pesticides for mosquitoes. Studies have demonstrated that it works even better for the long-term prevention of mosquitoes than permethrin, one of the most regularly used pesticides.
Summit Mosquito and Gnat Barrier
This product comes from the makers of Mosquito Dunks, a pesticide-free product for controlling mosquito larvae. Summit Mosquito and Gnat Barrier uses pesticides in a hose-end sprayer format to easily and widely attack your mosquito population.
The active ingredient in this product is permethrin, which is a commonly used synthetic pesticide designed to mimic toxic compounds found in plants. Like bifenthrin, it is a neurotoxin that eventually paralyzes insects.
While it works the same way as Bifen IT, this and other products containing permethrin usually have a faster immediate killing ability, so they will definitely do the job if you need to quickly handle a mosquito problem. It is toxic to other animals in large doses though, especially cats. When applying this spray, keep children and pets out of the area until the spray has fully dried.
How to Protect Bees When Spraying
The unfortunate reality of every mosquito spray is that it will be harmful to bees and other insects as well. The best way to protect bees when you are spraying for mosquitoes is to spray in the right places. Avoid any flowering or soon-to-be-flowering plants. Aim as close to the ground as possible to minimize any aerial distribution of pesticides.
If you see a lot of bees in your immediate area it may be best to use a mosquito trap instead of a yard spray. Something like the Mosquito Magnet can capture and kill mosquitoes over an acre of land, and won’t harm bees.
Other Ways to Control Mosquitoes
Sprays are not the only way to control mosquitoes. In many cases they are not even the best way to control them. Here are some other pesticide-free strategies for mosquito control.
Kill the Larvae
Mosquito larvae live near the surface of still water, so they are a lot easier to kill than flying adults. There are a lot of ways to kill mosquito larvae, such as Mosquito Dunks, mosquito-eating fish, and simply removing any standing water from your property.
Repel Instead of Killing
As much as we hate mosquitoes, they are a vital part of the ecosystem, so sometimes it’s better to just repel them instead of killing them. Repellant sprays containing DEET or OLE can help keep mosquitoes away by obscuring your smell. They don’t kill insects, but they will keep them from bothering you.
Use a Bug Zapper
Insects are universally attracted to light, so a bug zapper is a great strategy for attracting and then killing mosquitoes. Plus it’s a passive solution, so you don’t have to do anything after setting it up. You can enhance the effect by using CO2 or octenol bait to attract even more mosquitoes.
Just make sure you place your bug zapper and lures at least 25-50 feet away from your home to avoid attracting mosquitoes to humans.
Don’t Interfere with Mosquito Predators
This is a passive strategy, but still an important one to consider when making your mosquito-prevention plan. Mosquitoes have a lot of natural predators including dragonflies, spiders, bats, and birds.
Birds are the most significant predator of mosquitoes.
Mosquito Spray FAQ
When is the best time of day to spray the yard for mosquitoes?
Theoretically, the best time to spray mosquitoes to kill them would be during the day since this is when they will resting on your vegetation. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
However, this is a bad idea because this is also when pollinators and other important insects are most active. So most pest control specialists recommend spraying at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are active but bees are not. Ultimately, for a residual spray it won’t matter a ton in the long term. Residual sprays maintain a lethal level of pesticide residue on plants over time so the mosquitoes will land on it eventually.
What time of year should I spray for mosquitoes?
This depends on where you live, so check your mosquito season! Since mosquito sprays are meant to kill adults, there isn’t much of a point in treating any earlier than the start of the active mosquito season. Once you start seeing mosquitoes, start spraying. Any earlier might do more harm than good.
How often should I respray?
Check the manufacturer’s recommendations, but a good rule of thumb is once every month or so for most products, especially if you start seeing more mosquitoes. You may even be able to avoid respraying if you manage to set up some other prevention and larval-killing strategies in the downtime.
Are mosquito sprays safe for dogs?
Mosquito spray products are often labeled safe for pets if used correctly, but pesticides like permethrin are toxic in general.
If you have strong concerns about your pet’s health, you can go with a natural spray, just in case. Be very careful with insect repellants and pets, as DEET is highly toxic to pets and is often licked off by mistake. Permethrin- based repellants are much safer for dogs (though they can be toxic to cats).
Will mosquito sprays kill other pests like ticks or fleas?
Most mosquito sprays contain ingredients that are harmful to all insects, so any extra pests in your yard will probably die off as well. However, mosquito spray will not get rid of a flea problem in your home because you only spray it outside. You absolutely should not use it as a flea treatment – mosquito yard sprays are not designed for use on animal skin and fur.
How much spray do I need for my yard?
That all depends on the product and the yard! Mosquito sprays are generally meant to be diluted if you are going to spray a wide area, and there will be instructions for creating the right concentration for your purpose on the packaging, so make sure to check there. Diluting with mineral oil instead of water increases the effectiveness of pesticides, but mineral oil is highly toxic to plants, so it may not work very well for a yard spray.
What mosquito sprays are best during pregnancy?
If you have any concerns about chemical exposure during pregnancy, talk to your doctor, and consider using a natural spray instead of a chemical pesticide. That said, the real risks of pesticide exposure for pregnant women occur after long-term exposure. So a treatment or two of mosquito spray is unlikely to cause any harm.