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Spring into Action Against Mosquitoes

By Aaron Anderson on 23. March 2023
Aaron Anderson

As we count down the days until mosquitoes arrive, we’re counting down the top reasons not to spray adult mosquitos at home. At best, mosquitoes can be a significant nuisance, with nonstop biting and droning keeping us from enjoying the outdoors. In some cases, some mosquito species can vector diseases that impact humans and livestock. 

The first wave of mosquitoes is often accompanied by pest control advertisements and trucks. Companies offering mosquito spraying services often take advantage of homeowner concerns, sending sales people door-to-door to sign homeowners up for their services. A well-intentioned resident or home owner simply trying not to get bitten might think these applications only kill mosquitoes, when in fact, they are toxic to the broader insect community. 

We encourage you to not spray for mosquitoes. There are more effective, safer methods to control these pesky pests!


Mosquito biting a person's hand
Only female mosquitoes bite (and only some species!), and they do so to get a "blood meal" that provides nutrients to develop their eggs. (Photo: James Jordan, Flickr.)


Top 5 reasons not to spray for mosquitoes at home

5) Mosquito sprays are toxic to all the cool beneficial insects you are attracting to your yard

Mosquito control companies tend to use a class of insecticides called pyrethroids, which are broadly toxic to insects. This includes our almost 4,000 species of native bees found in the United States as well as butterflies and moths, fireflies, and beneficial insects like lady beetles and dragonflies. 


Native bee visiting a flower
Spraying for mosquitoes also puts vital pollinators and other beneficial insects at risk. (Photo: Sara Morris.)


4) Confusing pesticide messaging understates the actual risks

Pest control companies often use messages that could miscommunicate the actual level of risk. Most of us want to believe the best, but either marketing or fear of mosquitoes might lead to a misrepresentation of the impact these treatments could have to the numerous beneficial creatures that depend upon your yard. Watch out for messages include things like: 

  • The chemicals are natural and derived from flowers. While pyrethroids are related to pyrethrins, naturally occurring toxins that are found in chrysanthemum flowers, pyrethroids are lab-made versions that are often more toxic and longer-lived than pyrethrins (which can be quite toxic as well). 
  • The pesticide dries and is safe! Just because a pesticide is dry does not mean it is inactive. Pyrethroid residues can be present from days to weeks. 
  • The pesticide is non-toxic. While pyrethroids are not as immediately harmful to people as some other insecticides, they are still toxic to a wide variety of valuable creatures that depend upon your yard to survive.


3) Eliminating standing water is a more effective solution

Mosquito larvae need water to survive. It’s easier to remove water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding than trying to kill flying adults, and larval mosquitoes don’t transmit disease. Mosquitoes only need one-inch of water to reproduce and can develop from egg to adult in only 8-10 days, so water that stands around for just over a week can lead to a population explosion. Dump water from buckets and trash cans, look for hidden flower pots that are filled with rain water, and ensure gutters and corrugated drain pipes aren’t clogged. The earlier you start, the better! Mosquitoes can reproduce rapidly, and removing breeding habitat early in the year can help keep their populations from exploding.


Dirty stagnant water in a birdbath
Stagnant water allows mosquitoes to multiply quickly. (Photo: Xerces Society / Krystal Eldridge.) 


2) Mosquito sprays don’t really get rid of mosquitoes

Home mosquito sprays are not effective as long term control measures. They only target adult mosquitoes, and given how quickly these insects reproduce, this won’t put a big dent in the overall population. Though you might see mosquito numbers in your yard reduced for a short amount of time, this will only be temporary: mosquitoes are highly mobile insects, and new adults will quickly fly into your yard.


1) Mosquito management is most successful at the community level.

At the neighborhood level, talk to your neighbors about mosquito management and eliminating standing water as a solution. A whole neighborhood of people practicing common-sense mosquito management will have a much larger impact than just one yard. 

At the community level, Bee City USA volunteers in Decatur, GA are a great example of a grassroots no-spray campaign utilizing public education, outreach, and local policy work to reduce mosquito spraying in their community. 


Bee City volunteers at a booth with signs and printed materials about mosquito management without spraying
Community outreach can be an important method to educate people on mosquito management best practices. (Photo: Bee City USA – Decatur, GA.) 

Learn More

Interested in digging in more? Xerces has more resources on mosquito management:

Aaron Anderson works with the public and Xerces staff to reduce pesticide use in residential landscapes, including promoting alternative pest control measures and pollinator-friendly gardening practices. Prior to joining Xerces in 2022, he researched pollinator conservation in urban landscapes, restored habitat for several endangered butterfly species, and worked in insect biocontrol. In 2021 he was an AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he reported science and business stories.

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