Mosquitoes have chased me out of my own yard
August 13, 2015 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any experience with Mosquito-oriented CO2+ vacuums like the SkeeterVac? Does it work?

We live in DC, not built on a swamp but it feels like it. We have the scary Asian Tiger mosquitoes that everyone complains about, and they're prolific and have ruined my ability to enjoy my backyard. I'm looking at the SkeeterVac 3100 and thinking that it's a lot cheaper and less toxic than services like the Mosquito Squad.

Mostly just looking for experiences and alternatives, though we've tried just about everything that is compatible with having a toddler. I have read this previous thread, and since I don't believe we're actually in a swamp, I'm wondering if it's too pessimistic.
posted by anotherpanacea to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Entomologist here. They kill lots of mosquitoes. They also attract mosquitoes. The problem is, they are not effective at population control as if there are millions or billions of mosquitoes in the area surrounding you, catching even thousands of them a day will only make a tiny tiny dent in the overall population. They wil just move back in from the surrounding area. People claim that they are effective if you let them run for weeks or months, but the problem with that is mosquito populations fluctuate and are seasonal naturally. So likely they are just observing natural variations in population. Skin-applied mosquito repellents are the best thing for bite protection, and DEET and Icaridan work best. Area repellents can help temporarily reduce nuisance mosquitoes if there is no wind. Bug zappers are pretty well useless.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:44 AM on August 13, 2015 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Hello fellow DCite - we also had our summers ruined by these stupid things and only recently figured out the best combination of solutions. The problem with DC is that while you can do whatever you can to control the population on your property (emptying out water sources and cleaning out leaf gutters, mainly), there's nothing you can do about your neighbor's yards which are literally next door. I haven't tried spraying, as again, that requires your neighbors to also get their yards sprayed, and I'm not too hot about getting pesticides into the environment just because I want to sit out on my patio. You don't need to be in a swamp to attract these things - apparently any small amount of standing water will be sufficient to get mosquitos so we're also vigilant about emptying out even small water pooling sources.

I bought a bug zapper thinking it'll help - It does not seem to help at all, and inspecting the bugs killed I see very few mosquitos in there. We investigated the skeeter vac like devices, but I read that they're better for large properties where you can put the device far away from your house so as not to attract more nearby.

The best solutions we have found when we want to sit outside and don't want to bother with bug spray are
* Two large fans pointed at where people are hanging out (which seems to blow the mosquitos off course and away from people). You could also do a sort of "zone" where the fan blows a sort of box shape around where people are hanging out to build a wind border of sorts.
* Mosquito coils/citronella candles outside of those fans.

That's the set up we use for when guests are over so we don't have to have everyone putting on bug spray and it seems to work well enough. When we go out and work in the yard and other outdoor work activities we'll put on DEET. You don't need a crazy high percentage high strength deet since it's not as horrible as a real swamp can get.
posted by Karaage at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: fumbulvetr, yours was the comment I linked to in the last post!

Here's my question: the mosquitoes in my urban backyard don't seem like they could possibly number in the millions. I don't live on a swamp, I live on a small, urban block. The shared backyards are about a 1250 square meters/13000 square feet, total, for all my neighbors. Might a CO2 device work under those conditions?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:20 AM on August 13, 2015

You could also invite some bats to come live with you. They eat TONS of mosquitoes, and they're also experiencing some pretty serious threats through loss of habitats and disease, so it'd be a good thing to do for you and for the environment.

We currently have maybe 50-ish bats living in the shutters of our house, and I am planning to build some bat houses to increase our numbers next year. Bat Conservation International has free plans and instructions for building and locating bat houses for maximum occupancy, or you can buy pre-made ones from them. (According to what I've read, most bat house kits in hardware stores and places like that are just construction projects for kids, but are poorly designed and not all that habitable.)

I haven't done any real studies or anything, and I know I'm biased in favor of my bat friends, but it does seem to me that we have fewer mosquitoes right in the vicinity of our house than there are in the surrounding areas.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:42 AM on August 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Hmm, just noticed that. I personally wouldn't bet on it doing much for you besides giving you the satisfaction of killing mosquitoes. They are too slow at catching mosquitoes compared to the mosquito life cycle, and you may just end up attracting more bugs to your backyard. The most likely effective use in your scenario would be to convince all of your neighbours to buy one and run them constantly. At the very least, they may end up attracting the mosquitoes to their backyards instead, and at best there may be a hope of catching a lot of the mosquitoes.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2015

Response by poster: Oh, well. Okay, for our use-case, it looks like box fans are the answer. We really can't do lots of DEET: my wife does TSCA work and is too skeptical of it.

posted by anotherpanacea at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2015

We use a fan on our patio.
posted by LoveHam at 11:11 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a horrific time of it in terms of mosquitoes in the spring/early summer. Tried absolutely everything. Only thing that works is 1) net tents and 2) strong fans
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 12:03 PM on August 13, 2015

Our fan strategy is multiple-fold: we have two oscillating stand fans to blow at tabletop/shoulder-face level, positioned at opposite corners of the table/sitting area, and a box fan down low where the legs are.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2015

Best answer: This thread might help.
posted by H21 at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2015

> compatible with having a toddler

Is the concern here about trying to avoid sprays?

From the Canadian Medical Association Journal:

In this article, we review the available evidence on the effectiveness and safety of DEET-based products. The evidence does not support increased risk in young children...

DEET-based insect repellents are relatively safe when used as recommended. The suggestion that young children are more prone than adults to the neurotoxic effects of DEET is not supported by critical evaluation of existing evidence.

Health Canada says:

Children aged six months to two years: Up to 10% concentration may be used, applied no more than once daily. One application of 10% DEET offers three hours of protection against mosquitoes.

The EPA is more liberal: DEET is approved for use on children with no age restriction. Also, there is no restriction on the percentage of DEET in the product for use on children, since data do not show any difference in effects between young animals and adult animals in tests done for product registration. There also are no data showing incidents that would lead us to believe there is a need to restrict the use of DEET.

I live in the sticks and they are a pain. We have a gazebo with netting, and are big fans of DEET. DEET is the difference between playing outside vs not playing outside here; even if I believed DEET posed a risk to a child, my view would be that the benefits of playing outside would outweigh any risk from a product that has been widely used for a long time and seems to have been adequately studied and deemed safe.
posted by kmennie at 12:38 PM on August 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Fans work. Really well.

We also got this herbal pest-control stuff from the local nursery; it's got wintergreen oil in it. You hook the bottle up to the hose and spray your plants and stuff. It's a nice non-pesticide deterrent. It seems to be working - we've noticed a drop in the number of bites we get in the yard when we don't have the fans up, but nothing beats deet and fans.
posted by Thistledown at 10:30 AM on August 14, 2015

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