Mosquitoes turn time outside into an ordeal. Late afternoon and early evening are peak times for mosquito activity in summer gardens.
As many mosquito repellents include plant extracts (for example pyrethrum or citronella) one of the dreams held by many gardeners is to find a plant that will repel mosquitoes naturally. Unfortunately there isn't one, even though many fragrant plants are sold as having the ability to repel these buzzing pests.
That’s not to say there are not natural or low toxic ways to reduce the mozzie onslaught. Mosquito repellents containing DEET (diethyltoluamide) are considered safe and are highly effective against mosquitoes if they are applied to the skin. Apply repellant before venturing outdoors to work in the garden.
Get further protection by wearing long sleeves, long pants, closed shoes and a hat. Loose clothing is most effective.
If you are sitting in the garden, use a mosquito coil or a mosquito candle or both to keep the area free of mosquitoes. Use products that contain a low toxicity insecticide as well as a repellent such as citronella. Indoors rely on screens, mosquito nets and sprays to repel insects.
Reducing breeding habitat
While these methods keep mosquitoes at bay, it is important to track down where the mosquitoes are coming from. There are many myths about mosquitoes. Some people think they breed in shrubs and trees or perhaps in some distant river. Mosquitoes breed in water and they can breed in very small amounts of water. The mozzies that are biting you are probably breeding somewhere in your garden.
If there are containers of water in the garden then the chances are a mosquito will lay her eggs there. The wrigglers (the name given to mosquito larvae) will hatch and grow. After a few days, the larvae mature into adults and fly in to bite you. Well, the female mosquito bites, as she needs protein from a feed of blood for egg laying.
To reduce local breeding areas regularly search for and empty all containers that hold water including pet water bowls (empty and refill daily), buckets, children’s toys, rubbish waiting to go to the tip, and even the cups of bromeliad plants. Saucers under pot plants hold enough water for a mosquito to breed in. These should be removed, emptied or filled with sand to absorb water draining from the pot.
Also cover outlets on water tanks and septic tanks. Use shadecloth or fine netting. Keep gutters clean and clear so water can’t pool after rain.
Ponds also harbour mosquitoes. Use goldfish or native fish to keep ponds free of mosquitoes. Don’t use so-called mosquito fish as these are invasive species that can become pests in waterways.
More than itchy bites
There are 300 different mosquito species in Australia. Of these around 12 species bite and some do more than just deliver an irritating and itchy bite. Some species carry diseases including Ross River virus and dengue fever (both of which occur in parts of Australia), encephalitis and malaria.
If you are travelling into regions where there are mosquito borne diseases, regularly apply a DEET-based repellent (during the day and night), wear protective clothing and sleep under an insecticide-impregnated mosquito net.