Homeowners and the outdoorsy can keep the occasionally dangerous mosquitoes at bay with sprays and candles - or go in for the kill with pesticides.

Homeowners and the outdoorsy can keep the occasionally dangerous mosquitoes at bay with sprays and candles - or go in for the kill with pesticides.


The rule for spray repellents is simple: check the label for the chemical DEET.


"The science still maintains that the DEET-based repellents are the most effective," said David Lawson, assistant director of the Norfolk County (Mass.) Mosquito Control Project. "They're the best repellent and they last the longest."


Natural sprays and oils also work, Lawson said, but they wear off faster than DEET repellents and are generally less effective.


Tom Norton, co-owner of Combat Pest Control in Hanover, Mass., said citronella candles can keep mosquitoes away, but only in relatively small spaces.


"If you have it on a table and you're sitting down for dinner, they can be effective," he said. "It certainly wouldn't get rid of the mosquitoes on a large property."


To eliminate the insects from a whole yard, Norton's company uses a combination of bifenthrin, a common pesticide, and a garlic-based product called Mosquito Barrier. While the smell dissipates an hour or so after application, Norton said, it remains intolerable for the mosquitoes. The organic substance also works to repel gnats and midges, Norton said.


The two-pronged attack costs about $55 or $65 per treatment, depending on the size of the property, and is typically performed every two weeks during the summer months.


If your backyard or neighborhood seems to have more mosquitoes than normal, you should notify your local mosquito control project. The information will be used to plan routes for spraying, Lawson said.


Alex Spanko may be reached at aspanko@ledger.com.


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Mosquito-fighting tips


Make sure your property is free of stagnant water, where mosquitoes breed. Check usual suspects such as kiddie pools and buckets, as well as old tires, tarps, trash can lids and wheelbarrows, which can all collect rainwater.


Mosquitoes can also breed in moist, dark areas like compost piles or stacks of wet leaves and grass clippings.


Keep an eye on the weather. A rainy spring led to an above-average mosquito population, but a recent dry spell could put a major dent in mosquito numbers. Still, the severity of a particular mosquito season is difficult to predict. Populations can swell after a single rainy weather pattern.


If you use pesticides, target cool, dark areas like the leaves of shrubs. Mosquitoes tend to hide out there during the heat of the daylight hours.


Sources: David Lawson, assistant director of the Norfolk County Mosquito Control Project, and Tom Norton, co-owner of Combat Pest Control in Hanover.