Home Guru: Keeping the Biters at Bay: Creative Tips for Defeating Mosquitos

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Now is the time of year when you can enjoy evening meals outside, either on your patio or pool side. I enjoyed that for years before my recent move to a fifth-floor condo, where I don’t have to worry about pool upkeep anymore.  Maybe it’s the one and only thing I miss about single-home dwelling.

I used to love evening dining, contented en plein air as the sun set behind the trees and the sky grew dark. But just when I would feel my most serene, my family and guests were eager to retreat inside.

“We’re getting eaten alive out here,” they would say.

Then I knew that mosquitos had struck again.

Mosquitos can be the bane of the backyard, especially in an area rich in wetlands such as ours. I barely ever noticed the pests, however. Through some fluke of body chemistry, the worst of the biting insects never bothered me. My family and guests are not so lucky.

About one in 10 people can be considered “highly attractive” to mosquitos, emitting a certain combination of carbon dioxide, lactic acid and cholesterol through their skin that the bugs find irresistible, as I understand it. People who become easy targets for mosquitos include pregnant women, people who have been exercising vigorously and anyone with an appetizing genetic combination.

On behalf of those most susceptible to being bitten, I suggest an assault on these bloodsuckers every year, but with varying degrees of success. We could spray ourselves with clouds of DEET, and it would certainly be effective, but I would prefer to leave that option as a last resort. Even with all the evidence that that chemical is safe when used properly, I dislike the smell of bug spray, especially if the occasion includes an outdoor meal.

For several years we had a bug zapper mounted on the side of our garage. When we installed it we were confident our yard would be insect-free at night. The results, however, were disappointing. It was depressing to hear one creature after another sizzling to its death. Also, the mosquitos continued to bite my guests as much as they ever had. Our instincts were correct.

As it turns out, bug zappers are useful against insects that are attracted to light, such as moths, and these helpful pollinators are exactly the kind of bugs you should not zap. Mosquitos ignore the light, finding their meals by scent from up to 50 yards away.

So my next step was to remove their nesting sites. Mosquitos lay eggs in still water, so any wading pools, rain gutters or bird baths must be removed, drained or agitated. Man-made puddles are even more dangerous to our health than any pond in the woods because mosquitos that hatch in our midst are more likely to pick up and spread diseases among people.

I was particularly concerned about an iron fountain I had in the corner of my patio. It turns out that as long as I kept the small motor running, which in turn circulated the water through the fountain, no eggs would be laid there.

Once you have prevented mosquitos from hatching on your property, you can repel the ones flying in from elsewhere through some creative gardening. Basil, lemongrass and rosemary are all considered effective insect repellents, while being quite delicious to us. Catnip is also a good bug deterrent, although it may make your yard a little too attractive for outdoor cats. Marigolds deter all sorts of pests, including some of the warm-blooded ones, and they are frequently used in garden beds for this reason.

Citronella candles drive away many bugs, but sometimes the flame or the melted wax can pose a hazard. In that case, you can substitute citronella oil mixed with coconut oil in a jar, or even a live citronella plant. A jar of apple cider vinegar covered with a lid or layer of plastic wrap with holes in it also drives away many bugs.

Shiny objects are rumored to confuse some bugs, who mistake the rippling light for the surface of moving water. Hanging an unwanted CD or two from a branch might scare mosquitos away during a sunny day. You can also experiment with a Ziploc bag filled with water plus a few pennies, also hanging from a branch.

Finally, before you spray yourself, take a few scented dryer sheets and rub them on your skin and hair. This can mask your scent and make you invisible to mosquitos, especially if they contain the fragrance additive Linalool. At worst, this will prevent static cling and fly-away hair.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester ( His real estate site is: and his blog is: To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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