If you’re buddies with any fellow pool owners, you know that keeping insects out of the water is all the buzz. And while I’ve already written about how to keep bees and wasps from your pool, they have a much grislier cousin: the mosquito.
What’s to follow is a comprehensive list of all the best and most effective methods you can try to keep mosquitos out of your pool and yard—and keep them gone. Make sure you pick out the tricks that work best for your specific swimmers, yard, and pool.
But first, let’s explore why mosquitos aren’t just a nuisance. They actually pose a pretty big danger when around you and your pool.
Pool Party? Here’s Why Mosquitos Aren’t Invited
Think about it, and you’ll see why mosquitos pose a problem for pool owners everywhere. After all, they thrive in humidity and heat, and one of their common food sources lies in the skin of human bodies. It makes sense that at the peak of swim season (a.k.a. the hottest time of the year), swimmers would find themselves batting off these hungry bugs.
But mosquitos aren’t just annoying, and their bites aren’t just painful. They can also be dangerous. Diseases that are spread to people by mosquitos include the Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue, and malaria. Although people may not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people have a mild, short-term illness or, more rarely, severe or long-term illness. Severe cases of mosquito-bourne diseases can even cause death (source: CDC).
So, yeah. Let’s keep these suckers as far away as possible from you and your fellow swimmers. Keeping mosquitos out of the pool isn’t just about reducing irritation. It’s also an issue of safety.
They Don’t Just Visit Your Pool. They Can Live In It
You’re not going to want to hear this, but your pool is probably not just a quick stop for mosquitos. Chances are that they actually live in your pool. In order to understand how, let’s revisit high school biology: specifically, the life cycle of a skeeter.
All mosquitos go through four distinct stages during their life cycle: the egg, which hatches when exposed to water; larva, which lives in water; pupa, which remains in water; and the adult, which is the flying insect you probably (unfortunately) recognize.
You read that right. The mosquito spends three of its four life cycles in water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and CDC, after a mosquito female “obtains a blood meal” (that’s you), she lays eggs directly on or near water (that’s your pool).
Now that you understand that your pool is an ideal breeding site for mosquitos, it’s time to get serious about preventing them from entering, buzzing around, and laying babies in your pool.
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How to Prevent Mosquitos from Landing on Swimmers
Mosquito visits not a regular occurrence? We’ll see about that. For now, there are a few simple measures anyone can take to prevent mosquitos from landing on actual swimmers. These are cost-effective solutions that don’t take much time or effort to see through. Unless you’re living in an actual swamp, I’d start here.
Insect Repellent and Citronella
And the obvious award goes to… me. But any solution to keeping mosquitos away that doesn’t include insect repellent and citronella candles is incomplete.
Insect repellent can be customized for your own preferences and needs, thanks to this handy worksheet form titled Find the Repellent That Is Right for You from the EPA. Their recommendations range from the super strong and effective DEET (that’s short for diethyltouamide) to more natural options, such as eucalyptus oil.
I know what you’re thinking: what’s the point of putting on insect repellent and then jumping into a body of water? And it’s true that insect repellent is less effective when swimming. Plus, your chemical balance can take a minor hit—meaning you’ll need to be really on top of weekly or biweekly water strip testing. It just might not be worth it.
What I recommend is using citronella around the perimeter of the pool, as well as spraying insect repellent on towels, clothes, and other items that you’ll be wearing before and after your swim. In the end, insect repellent and citronella probably won’t keep the area around your pool flawlessly mosquito-free, but they’re bound to help.
Your Biggest Fan
One of the best hacks for keeping mosquitos away from your pool is to set up a large fan. Sounds surprising? Well, these bugs are actually incredibly weak flyers. They don’t stand a chance against a fan, or even a moderate breeze. This trick also works indoors—especially if you sleep with the windows open in the summer.
Mosquito traps are designed to lure in mosquitos and then… ahem… control them. Okay, I mean exterminate. The methods of mosquito traps are endless, from shocking, to trapping, to sucking. One thing to consider before installing your own is the first part of how they function: they lure mosquitos in. This is used through carbon dioxide, odor, and other elements mosquitos find tantalizing. An issue some pool owners run into is that their traps lure in more mosquitos to their yard, and then don’t have the capacity to “take care” of them all.
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How to Prevent Mosquitos from Making Your Pool Home
Horrified by the thought that mosquitos are breeding and growing in your pool water? I don’t blame you. Here are some measures you can take to send yours an eviction notice that they’ll understand.
Keep Your Water Balanced
The chemical balance of your water should be your first line of defense. If you check in on the chemicals in your water every single week, and balance as needed, mosquitos won’t be able to thrive in your water.
If you’ve noticed mosquito eggs or larvae in your water, it’s time to get a refresher on pool chemical balance. And since debris and general uncleanliness throws chemical balance out of wack, it’s a good idea to study up on the ultimate pool maintenance routine, as well as how to properly clean your pool.
Use a Pool Cover
This one is designed to keep adult mosquitos from laying their eggs in your water. Using a pool cover when you or others aren’t swimming will dramatically cut down the window of opportunity for an adult mosquito to lay eggs on your water.
Clear Out Still Water
Got any buckets or puddles around your yard? It’s time to clear out any still water, for any reason. They’re just asking for a big family of mosquitos to move in. One good way to assess the flooding or otherwise moist areas of your yard is after a big rain. Fill in the soggiest parts with dirt to prevent moisture from sticking around too long after precipitation. This includes any holes left over from felled trees, or even holes that collect water in knotty trees.
Don’t worry—there’s no need to get rid of that waterfall or fountain. Mosquitos can’t survive in moving water, so as long as these features stay on, they pose no threat for a new skeeter habitat.
Keep Disposing of Debris
Got soggy piles of leaves and twigs that accumulate? It’s time to get serious with your shovel, rake, and any other debris-busting tools you’re equipped with. Any rotting log or mushy mound of junk is just another opportunity for mosquitos to congregate, lay eggs, and call it home.
To take it one step further, integrate some mosquito-repellent plants into your landscaping plans. This medically-reviewed list includes: lavender, sage, rosemary, basil, and mint. As you might be able to tell, you’ll have a fresh new herb garden for your cooking, too!
Seal Your Septic Tank
It’s a septic tank to you, but it’s a luxurious condo to mosquitos. Anyone with a serious mosquito problem should do a thorough inspection of their septic tank to ascertain whether or not mosquitos have found a way in. Make sure the lid on your septic tank fits snug, cover ventilation pipes with tight mesh, and repair your septic tank walls if you have any cracks.
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Still Hearing a Buzz? Take More Extreme Measures
If you’ve tried all of the above that make sense for you, your swimmers, your property, and your pool, and you’re still swatting away all summer… well, it’s time to ramp things up a little. These are more intensive measures, but often also pay off.
As the Floridians Do: Install a Pool Enclosure
Whether you opt for a full enclosure around the entirety of your pool or a bug net and curtains for the patio area for swimmers off-duty, installing mesh netting (or sometimes glass or fiberglass) does wonders to keeping the mosquitos out. Just make sure that the mesh is tight enough that none of these bugs can fly through. That would totally defeat the purpose.
Regardless of the type of enclosure or barrier you choose, it’s important that you inspect it every so often to make sure it hasn’t torn, cracked, or been otherwise compromised.
Utilize Natural Predators
The best natural mosquito predators to attract or even directly place in your yard are dragonflies and mosquito fish.
Dragonflies are the good kind of water-bourne bug. They are harmless to people, help maintain a healthy ecosystem, and add color and life to your yard. To attract them, it helps to have a water feature or pond where they can lay their eggs.
I know: wasn’t this whole post about minimizing water? That’s why I recommend a small water feature that you can treat with mosquito dunks. That’s a type of mosquito larvaecide that doesn’t pose a threat to dragonflies, honeybees, and other good-guy bugs.
Mosquito fish hunt mosquito larvae and use them as a food source. They can be added to a small water feature and are so efficient that some malaria vector control agencies offer them for free. In other states, they’re illegal due to damage on some environmental conditions. Check with your local .gov to see if they’re the right choice for you.
With Caution: Use a Pesticide
I’m not the biggest fan of pesticides, because they tend to travel throughout your yard. What isn’t good for mosquitos might also not be good for your beautiful landscaping and other important species in your yards. Depending on the type of pesticide and environmental conditions, pesticides can even unknowingly expose themselves to swimmers. That’s a no go.
Pesticides for mosquitos are usually categorized as larvaecides and adultcides, which refer to the age of the mosquito. Larvaecides should be applied to water—but keep in mind that they’re not recommended for chlorine pools. If you do use this type, I recommend using tablets of larvaecides in septic tanks and on top of pool covers. Take extra care at the end of the closed season or rainy season that the water that’s accumulated on your pool cover absolutely does not fall into your pool. An ultra-powerful and automatic pool cover pump is an necessity.
To use one of the many forms of adultcides on the market, be sure that it is intended for use outdoors. Don’t apply this kind of pesticide anywhere around vegetation, especially the blooms that might attract more friendly (and essential!) bugs. Honeybees are already dying at an alarming rate, and it’s best to not contribute to the problem.
If you do want to take the pesticide route, I do not recommend home mosquito misters, which can lead to pesticide traveling across your yard—and maybe even hitting your pool.
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Swatting be done. You may not have needed to try out every single one of these methods, but chances are you’ve found the one (or two or three) that are right for you. Now you can focus on more butterfly strokes, and less mosquito pain, throughout the hottest times of the swim season. Enjoy.