Mosquitoes are nothing if not annoying, and it seems like they just outsmart all our efforts to get rid of them. While you'll likely never be able to spend a warm summer evening outside completely free of the pesky bloodsuckers, there are some ways to cut down on mosquito populations so your outdoor barbecues are more pleasant.
Many of these tricks also help eliminate ticks, which can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme Disease.
Mosquitoes and ticks often rest in tall grasses, and such areas are more likely to collect water, which they also find attractive. Therefore, keep grasses short, and eliminate all pools of stagnant water, even the tiniest ones: saucers under plants, garbage cans and lids, spare tires or tire swings, clogged gutters, birdbaths and rain puddles. Ticks can also be carried on the bodies of various animals, from large deer to tiny mice, that may linger at the edges of your yard to eat brush and other wild bushes. Keeping hedges cut back helps keep ticks at bay.
If you have a decorative pond, stock it with mosquito- and larvae-eating fish like Gambusia. You can also try mosquito dunks, which are small disks that slowly release bacteria that will kill bugs upon ingestion. These are available at most lawn and garden stores, but you can also get them online ($11.95/6-pack; www.planetnatural.com).
Since adult mosquitoes are least active during the day, you can spray a botanical insecticide, such as the Organic Mosquito and Gnat Repellent sold at Planet Natural, on shrubs and the lower limbs of trees while they're at rest. Avoid sprays that contain permethrin (or any related chemicals ending in –thrin), often billed as eco-friendly since it's derived from chrysanthemums. However, it can cause asthma attacks, headaches and nausea and interferes with development in aquatic animals.
Since it's difficult to eliminate mosquitoes at their source, protecting yourself is the next best thing.