How to Keep Mosquitoes and Ticks Away

As far as your deck or patio is concerned, some spatial repellent products work much better than others. Several years ago our testers tried out two area repellents—citronella candles and a battery-powered diffuser that blows out geraniol—and found they were ineffective at keeping mosquitoes away. An oscillating pedestal fan did much better. When set on high, it cut mosquito landings by 45 to 65 percent for the people sitting close to it.

Mosquito traps that use fans, electric grids, or adhesive pads to capture and kill mosquitoes are also available. The idea behind them is generally to attract mosquitoes and kill the ones that come into contact with the traps. Experts suggest avoiding one category of these devices altogether: bug zappers. These kill bugs indiscriminately, including plenty of beneficial bugs like pollinators.

Some other types of lures, particularly those that are aimed at attracting mosquitos specifically, appear to be more useful. Researchers at the CDC have developed one kind of trap, the autocidal gravid ovitrap (AGO trap), that traps female mosquitoes seeking to lay eggs, for example, and there are a number of similar traps on the market. The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) notes that the effectiveness of these types of products depends on a wide variety of factors, including the species of mosquito, the insects’ population size in the area, the season, wind conditions, and more. So it’s best to consider them just one potentially useful strategy among many.

Our safety experts warn against using yard foggers or misters that spray insecticide. “You might inhale the chemicals, some of which have been linked to serious health problems, including endocrine disruption and neurological effects,” says Michael Hansen, PhD, Consumer Reports’ senior scientist.

Ticks: They like tall grass and lots of shade. So keep your lawn mowed, remove leaves and other debris, and try to let as much sun into your yard as possible. Consider putting up a fence around your property to keep out deer and other large animals that can carry ticks. Another option: Create a 3-foot barrier of dry wood chips or gravel between the edge of your lawn and any wooded areas on the perimeter of your property, which will discourage ticks from coming into your grass. And don’t forget to check your pets for ticks after they have been romping outside.