Insect repellent label

For casual use, a product containing 10-30% DEET should be adequate. DEET repellents can damage some plants, plastics, leather and some fabrics so use caution when applying.

May was a record-breaking month for rain in many areas of the United States including our own Lincoln, Nebraska area. With all of the rain (and more rain in the forecast), it is no surprise mosquitoes and ticks are out in record numbers. We’re getting many calls on both of these pests here in the office. Today, I’m going to focus on mosquitoes and the steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Around your property:

Dump, dump, dump! Walk around your property and dump any standing water. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Even small amounts of water trapped in children’s toys, knotholes of trees, tin cans in your recycling containers, gutters and more can be a potential breeding site for mosquitoes.

Rinse and clean birdbaths on a weekly basis. Cover wading pools.

Keep your lawns mowed and your ornamental plantings like shrubs well-manicured, especially by your home. Mosquitoes rest in these areas.

Repair torn screens and seal any other openings around your home. You don’t want mosquitoes slipping indoors looking for a blood meal.

Protect yourself when your outdoors:

Clothing: If you are working outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Two layers are more difficult for mosquitoes to penetrate but that isn’t always practical on hot days.

Time your work day. You’ll have fewer issues with mosquitoes on windy days and during periods of strong sunlight.

Wear a personal repellent.

*****Products containing the active ingredient N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide or DEET, are still the standard for repelling mosquitoes. When you look on a repellent product’s label, you’ll see it listed as the active ingredient. You don’t need more than 10-30% DEET. For children, keep the concentration of DEET at 10% or less and spray it on their clothing. Adults with sensitive skin should also spray repellents only on clothing.

*****Are there other products? Yes and their effectiveness varies. For more information on products available and their effectiveness, visit

Protect your dog from heartworms which are spread by the bite of a mosquito. This is a serious and potentially fatal disease. Contact your veterinarian for their recommendation of a product for your pet.

Mosquito - Photo by J. Kalisch, UNL Entomology

Photo by J. Kalisch, UNL Entomology

Mosquito traps & pesticides for outdoors:

Electrocuting devices known as “bug zappers” are not effective for mosquito control. Less than 1% of the insects killed in a bug zapper are mosquitoes.

Ultrasonic Devices are not effective for any pest control.

Mosquito-Repellent Plants: Although advertised as being mosquito-repellent plants, growing the plants on your patio or porch won’t repel mosquitoes. However, when leaves of some plants are crushed or extracts are refined, there is some repellency – comparable to low-percentage DEET products.

Having an outdoor party? You can use an insecticide labeled for mosquito control in your yard.  Timing is important and remember to follow all label directions carefully. Spray three hours before the event and focus on places where mosquitoes rest (lawns, shrubs, small trees). Again, read the label carefully to avoid spraying on sensitive plants. You can also burn citronella candles or citronella oil in lanterns. Smoke from your BBQ may even repel some mosquitoes. If mosquitoes are bad enough, plan to move the party indoors.

Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis or Bti. Long name – important product for controlling larval mosquitoes. These products are sold using descriptors like “dunks”, “donuts”, “briquets”, “bisquits” and pellets. They are put into water to help keep mosquito larvae from developing. The label will tell you how much to use. These products are safe for birds, fish and wildlife. I toss a bit of Bti into knotholes in my landscape trees that I know hold water. These products are available at hardware stores, garden centers, farm supply and home improvement stores. Once they are wet, they work up to 30 days and then you’ll need to add more. The insect growth regulator, methoprene, is also available in briquette or granular form. This product kills the mosquito larvae but doesn’t have any effect on the “tumblers” (pupae) or adults. Look at the ingredients on the label for these products.

For more information on mosquitoes and their control, visit

As always, if you have questions about pests and wildlife found in your area, contact your local extension office. They are a terrific resource in our communities. Find your local office (nationwide listing) here.

Have a great day!!


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