Fighting Mosquitoes in Austin

With all of the pleasing outdoor activities that Austin has to offer, there’s still a tiny but mighty, and often dangerous, nuisance lurking just beyond the door. Mosquitoes are most active when the weather warms up—at least above 50°F—and they begin to really wreak havoc during their breeding periods (28 days after reaching adulthood).

Unfortunately, our extended warm climate and most yards in Austin are ideal environments for mosquitoes to breed, so taking on the challenge of controlling their infestation is no small feat. “Texas has at least five different regional climates, so it’s different for each area,” says Jason Revill of Barefoot Mosquito & Pest Control. “Even within these climates, there are microclimates that can affect each neighborhood differently. Tarrytown in Austin is flat and riddled with rivers and streams and requires a different approach to the hilly and densely vegetated Northwest Hills located just three miles up Mopac.”

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Of course, we know it’s not possible to control the entire local mosquito population, but one option that’s getting a lot of attention around town is the use of a spray solution containing concentrated essential oils, such as rosemary, garlic, thyme and cedar. Applied by a professional, this solution is perfectly safe to spray on lawns, trees and edible gardens. However, local experts at The Natural Gardener stress caution. “[These products] are both nontoxic and highly effective,” says Education Coordinator Neil Schmidt. “But they can repel all insects, including beneficial insects like pollinators—potentially affecting flower pollination and fruit set.” If you’re worried about the friends in your garden or around your flowers, Schmidt says to consider mosquito traps. Incidentally, he also recommends using an outdoor fan when gardening and tending flower beds. “The use of a [fan] blowing directly on you as you work is ideal not only because it blows the mosquitoes away, but it cools you down at the same time!”

There are other solutions that combine essential oils with a small amount of pyrethrins—a combination of botanical chemicals derived from chrysanthemum flowers. “We’ve come a long way since the old automatic misters that would use a 55-gallon barrel of pesticide solution every month to control mosquitoes,” says Revill. “On a typical property, we only use less than one tablespoon of [pyrethrins].” Though these solutions are considered 100 percent natural and approved for organic-gardening purposes, be aware that they will definitely kill pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Most professional treatments start to work immediately, so it’s a good idea to begin mosquito service early in the spring to prevent a complete infestation. Once mosquitos have taken over your lawn, it may take a few treatments to see desired results.

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What Makes Our Mosquito Population Unique?

Aedes albopictus—the Asian tiger mosquito—is a dominant species of mosquito in Central Texas that’s extremely challenging to control. “They rest high in the trees, don’t adhere to a dusk/dawn feeding schedule, and are excellent breeders,” says Revill. “They also don’t lay their eggs in ditches and marshes like other mosquito species. Instead, they lay eggs in anything that can retain water—even a bottle cap—or alternatively, up in the trees waiting to be hydrated by the next rain. While they’re a foreign species to Austin, they’re truly Texas-tough to eradicate.”

Set Up Your Yard for Success.

Mosquitos breed in shallow, standing pools of water that can accumulate on many surfaces throughout your lawn. Eliminate all potential sources for standing water, including tarps, children’s toys, clogged gutters, leaky faucets, plant pots, etc. Mosquitoes also like to breed in areas around decaying organic matter, such as dead leaves and compost, so landscape upkeep is key. “Keeping a yard free of standing water and free of plants that produce large amounts of nectar are the best way to keep mosquitoes at bay,” says Josh Lien of Mosquito Joe pest control. “Mosquitoes won’t harbor in some plants, such as lavender, citronella, rosemary or lemongrass, but the repellent effect isn’t strong enough to keep mosquitoes out of your yard if there are other good harboring sites and standing water available.”

By Rachel Johnson