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NANCY SZERLAG

Gardening: Take aim against mosquitoes

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

If you love to entertain and garden in your backyard but the mosquitoes are driving you indoors, I’ve got some tips to get rid of these blood-sucking pests. And the good news is you needn’t slather yourself with chemicals or hose down the landscape with toxic pesticides to get the job done.

Begin by emptying out anything in the garden or landscape holding standing water — that is, water that doesn’t move. Water in containers and ponds with working fountains are not a problem. Think plant saucers, yard art and other containers that collect water that becomes stagnant. As little a 1/4-inch of standing water can become a breeding grown for mosquitoes. Some say as little as a cap full of water will do, so pick up those twist off tops from the wine bottles.

To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in places where you want water to collect or cannot drain it, such as ponds, bird baths and animal water dishes, use a mosquito control product that contains the beneficial bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, called Bti. Lethal to mosquito larvae, it’s harmless to people, fish, pets, wildlife and beneficial insects. Bti is the active ingredient in Mosquito Dunks, the No. 1 selling biological mosquito control product that, when placed in standing water, will kill mosquito larvae for up to 30 days.

If you have a large yard bordered by woods and/or water features, such as swamps and wetlands, you will need to use another tool, and I recommend Mosquito Barrier, a nontoxic OMRI-listed bug repellant spray made of garlic juice (mosquitobarrier.com/). While it kills adult mosquitoes and respells others from entering the sprayed area, it’s safe for use around people, pets, animals, fish, birds and beneficial insects when used as directed.

Mosquito Barrier is applied with a sprayer and you can use the common garden canister type or a backpack model. It’s best to use it when it has not rained for 24 hours. Apply it at dusk or early in the morning. Mosquito Barrier only works on live green material, so don’t waste it by spraying bark and mulch. The smell, which will knock your socks off when you open the container, subsides in a half-hour when the product dries. However, it remains active for several weeks. When spraying lawns, because new growth is cut away, it lasts only about two weeks.

Dunks and Mosquito Barrier are available at all English Gardens and other independent garden centers.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.