Are Mosquito Treatments Safe?
June 12, 2019 6:29 AM   Subscribe

We have tons of mosquitos in my backyard and I want to get rid of them. I have two young kids. Are mosquito treatment services safe?

They're EPA approved and non-toxic. We have a garden with food we grow and eat, a 3 year old, and 9 month old. I'm looking at using a company like Mosquito Squad. They have a standard option, but for 200 dollars more you can do the all natural option that repels mosquitos using essential oils. They said that the amount of stuff in the traditional spray is so small that its not harmful and is just enough to kill mosquitos.

Any thoughts?
posted by MisantropicPainforest to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You may also want to check out one of these bad boys, a friend has one and says it's amazing how many mosquitoes he finds in the trap.
posted by Grither at 6:36 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]

The Wirecutter has a couple articles about personal and area mosquito repellents. They don't directly address the kind of full-yard fogging that you're looking at, but they do go in depth about some of the concerns you have (safety, regulation, and effectiveness of various pesticides). Basically, if the EPA has made any sort of statement about the chemicals being used, then you can be fairly confident that they are effective to the extent that they claim and safety effects have been investigated.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you couple it with removing any standing water from your yard.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:05 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

We have a lawn company spray with a natural repellent (it's pretty much smelly cedar oil) and it works on mosquitoes and ticks. I also have two little kids who roll around in the garden and I wouldn't use the traditional spray, personally, but I also try to garden for the birds and the bees.
posted by lydhre at 7:32 AM on June 12

In addition to anything you may decide to do to control mosquitoes on your own property: Check where you live for a (probably county or parish level) mosquito control department, in case there's anything they can do about mosquitoes breeding in standing water that's not on your property. In many places, they do have the right to enter private property to eliminate mosquito sources. Mosquito proliferation isn't just a private problem, it's a public health concern.
posted by asperity at 8:26 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

What does the company actually spray? The website doesn't say.

Pesticides across the board are certainly not benign to young children at every concentration, no. One example study of many: "Recent research suggests that even low levels of pesticide exposure can affect young children’s neurological and behavioral development."

While there are many smart people working hard at the EPA, EPA approval is no guarantee that a pesticide is safe. "The USA lags behind other agricultural nations in banning harmful pesticides." The chlorpyrifos controversy is one example.
posted by salvia at 8:52 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I work for the public health department in my state in the vector borne disease section. The main part of my job is working with mosquito vector control districts/agencies throughout my state to identify birds for testing for West Nile Virus. I second asperity's recommendation of contacting your local vector control agency/mosquito abatement district/environmental health department (basically whoever takes care of mosquito control for your area), especially if you don't think the mosquitoes are coming from your property specifically. Treatment on your own property will only go so far if there are other people in your neighborhood who aren't treating or have stagnant water, or if there's a public source of water for breeding mosquitoes. At the very least they might be able to provide you with more information in terms of the treatment options you're looking at, but they also could potentially treat the surrounding areas as well (or force your neighbors to). If you're in California, I can provide you more specific info over MeMail if you'd like, in terms of who to contact.
posted by primalux at 10:25 AM on June 12 [6 favorites]

Plus one for grither's suggestion. The mosquito magnet worked a treat when my neighbor used it. it cleared a large area including mine and surrounding neighbors' yards. My neighbor also used one in upstate Minnesota and that thing made living without mosquitos possible. You let the magnet have some time to reduce the population and break the breeding cycle. It was maintenance but no fear of chemicals or built up resistance. I really wish they sold it in Australia.
posted by jadepearl at 3:29 PM on June 12

I would be skeptical of both the "non-toxic" and "EPA approved" claims. Most of that is just marketing talk with no science behind it.

Many of the "mosquito treatments" will also kill all other insects. No lightning bugs for your kids to chase. No butterflies, bees, or other pollinators for your garden. No nice beneficial ladybugs. You'll also be increasing pesticide resistance of everything, including the ticks and mosquitoes. It's an awful lot cheaper and less risky to just wear insect repellent.

If you really want to do this, Consumer Reports has some good tips about how to maybe do it more safely.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:18 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

You also need to eliminate all standing water on your property, things like containers that can catch rainwater. If you can't eliminate a pool, use Mosquito Dunks.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:34 PM on June 12

I can’t vouch for this stuff but I almost gave it a whirl a summer ago when they were bad:
posted by christiehawk at 11:48 PM on June 13

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