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August 17, 2010 1:05 PM   Subscribe

We have a mosquito/fly problem, but we live in the city. Help!

We have a relatively small back patio (maybe 10'x15-20'?) that is concrete. There is a storm drain next to our back door, but we have no idea if there is standing water in the drain. The most likely culprit for the mosquito/fly infestation is the abandoned house next door. We've had some problems with the OTHER neighbor throwing trash in the back yard, and although we've tried to pull what we could from the tree, we don't have access to that yard. There's also an "empty" lot on the other side of the abandoned house with even more trash in it. We don't have access to that yard, either.

Short of burning the property to the ground, what can we do to get rid of these mosquitoes? We bought two of these because every time we open our back yard, about ten flies/mosquitoes get into the house. They work great even during the day, but we can't enjoy our patio at all without getting eaten alive. We can't even take out the trash without getting bug bites. We try to keep our trash cans as far away from the house as we can, but that doesn't help much with the flies.

We've looked into bug zappers and bait traps, but they all say that they should be set up far away from any houses or buildings. Unfortunately, our patio is only 10' deep and surrounded on three sides by other houses. We do have an "alley" that is unused, though it is still against our house. Is it safe to put a "bait trap" down there? Do you have any recommendations?

Bonus question: Is there anything we can do to get the owner of the abandoned to clean up his yard, at least, maybe even the house? We're in Philadelphia, PA. We've already handled the situation with the other neighbor, and she hasn't thrown trash again. It does stink a little on really hot days and/or after it rains, so getting it cleaned up would benefit us on so many levels.

Is there anything else we can do? We miss making s'mores by the fire and having guests on the patio. Any insight or suggestions would help at this point. It's really annoying!
posted by two lights above the sea to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Fill up a few ziploc bags with water, seal them, and hang them along your roof. That will help keep the flies at bay.
posted by Uncle Ira at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: I should also mention that there is a dead tree that hangs over our house and into our yard, and there is various over-grown plants, such as a tree "weed" that is about twice my height. I'm not sure if that's relevant to getting the neighbor to clean up.
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:14 PM on August 17, 2010

Response by poster: er, there are various over-grown plants...
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:14 PM on August 17, 2010

I've never used it myself, but could you use something like Mosquito Barrier?
posted by flex at 1:25 PM on August 17, 2010

Fly paper. (The old ways are best.) Just make sure you hang it somewhere where nobody will get their hair or beard caught in it. LFMF.
posted by scratch at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2010

1. Identify all sources of standing water on your property and on the neighboring one.
1a. If you need help getting access to the neighboring property, check to see if you have a local mosquito abatement district. Call your county, or look online.
2. Place a mosquito dunk in all of these areas that collect water, including shallow depressions that turn into puddles after a rain. In each gutter, too. For really small areas, you can break the dunks into halves or quarters.

Mosquito dunks are safe around animals. They are made from BT, a bacterial product that affects the larval stages of caterpillars, butterflies and mosquitos. When placed in water, it will only affect water-borne larvae (like mosquitoes), killing them before they turn into flying adults, so you want to limit it to wet areas. Spreading it around where no mosquito larvae tread will adversely affect other populations of moths and butterflies.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:09 PM on August 17, 2010

No constructive advice here, but I just wanted to warn you against bait traps. My dad got one of those for his entry, and ended up with every single mosquito and fly in the neighborhood rushing to where he placed it.
posted by halogen at 3:16 PM on August 17, 2010

Off lanterns, a couple of fans to keep the air moving while you're outside on the patio, and really good bug spray - I use the bug guard plus from Avon and it's awesome. When i lived in Long Island the mosquitos were so bad I just resigned myself and we never left the house without bug spray on. Since you can get the bug guard plus in a formula that includes waterproof sunscreen it had an additional benefit, too.
posted by lemniskate at 6:53 PM on August 17, 2010

Best answer: You can call the Department of Health's Vector Control program. Call the insect number, and you will be asked to answer a series of questions. The message tells you they will call you back, but someone may just show up at your door one morning. When I called about the impressively awful mosquito problem in my yard, the inspector treated the block's sewer inlets and gave a warning to a neighbor with an overgrown and trash-filled yard. The neighbor cleaned their yard, but I think the city will issue citations of some kind if they don't. The inspector might also give you a trap to use for a day.

For the trash in the vacant yard, I'd try 311 first and see what they suggest. If that doesn't work, I think the general process is to talk to your neighborhood association if your neighborhood has one, and your councilperson. If the lot is abandoned and not a falling down building, I'd probably just clean it myself, though. I doubt anyone would care, if anything the neighbors would probably be pleased.
posted by sepviva at 8:51 PM on August 18, 2010

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