When Gardeners Band Together,
Tiger Mosquitos are Toast


I have a mosquito story to tell, so I guess this is Bug Week on the Rant.Asian_mosquito

It all started with a question on the local gardening listserv, with apologies for being off-topic: What’s up with these tiger mosquitoes that are making it damn-near impossible to garden this year?  You know, the recent immigrant from Asia that feeds (on us) not just early and late in the day but all day long.  The ones that can carry the West Nile virus.

In response, Gardener Bill related his success story: with the removal of standing water and the purchase of some *inexpensive traps – 3 for his yard and a few for his nearest neighbors – Bill’s gardening again, bite-free.  For outdoor parties he brings in some extra artillery, though – citronella candles and an oscillating fan – and nobody’s using the repellent.  Pretty impressive.  The traps contain what no self-respecting mosquito can resist, of course – pheromones – and Bill says it’s quite good fun watching the tiny bastards bang their heads against the sides of the trap trying to get out.

He closes with this call to local gardeners – let’s ALL use them and "decimate the tiger mosquito population."

Immediately, inquiries about the traps began flying around the Yahoosphere and the upshot is that because they’re cheaper to buy wholesale than from this retail catalog, everyone’s joining forces to buy up a big batch of those babies for themselves and their neighbors.  Well, do you know just how much administrative hassle is involved in all this compiling of orders and checks and delivery points and unclaimed merchandise?  Back in the days when I had too much time on my hands I arranged for a humongous citywide shipment of spring bulbs, so I shudder – really – at the imagined headaches.  But never mind; the mosquito trap order quickly became a community event.  Well done, gardeners! 

Not knowing a thing about tiger mosquitoes, I went surfing and found some good information, like this, but also noticed in a nearby county that there’s this spraying program embodying the more traditional approach to pest control: spraying from trucks of whole neighborhoods where 8 out of 10 residents request it, no matter how the other 2 feel about it.  Half the cost of this "service" to the community is paid by the county, the other half by the neighbors, which occurs as often as is deemed necessary by the sprayers.

Now I have to ask myself, is my knee just jerking to the left or is this really as safe as their site claims it is?  A little more digging unearthed this about the particular insecticide used:

The insecticide used in the adult mosquito spraying is a synthetic
pryethroid called Permethrin. This insecticide has a low toxicity to
people and other mammals. It is practically non-toxic to birds and
breaks down quickly in the environment.  As it is toxic to fish, we are
required to follow the guidelines set forth by the Environmental
Protection Agency; and as it is toxic to bees, applications are made in
the evening after most bees have stopped foraging for the day.

Fish and bees, huh?  Two animal groups that haven’t been feeling too well lately.   

Back to the traps, which Bill says cost him $10 each, plus $5 each for some replacement lures.  (It’s recommended that homeowners use 2 or 3 per backyard and they last for 6 weeks.)  But after the group banded together for a large order their final cost, including shipping, was $6 per trap and $3 per replacement lure.  Doing the math for such bulk purchases, a 3-trap garden costs the gardener $18 plus lures for another 6 weeks for a total seasonal cost of $27.  Assuming the traps can be reused the next year, the cost after the initial investment is only $18 a year for a typical suburban garden.

Here’s my reaction: if the guvment’s going to subsidize the killing of these truly obnoxious insects, wouldn’t most of us prefer they buy huge quantities of traps and distribute them at cost to whole communities, rather than spray poison from trucks?  Sure seems like a less toxic way to decimate the tiger mosquito population.  But then I’m no scientist so readers, please weigh in.

Photo Credit.

Previous articleGardening for Bees
Next articleFull disclosure
Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. Resently a neighbor shared on our neighborhood list that her single call regarding mosquitoes wd result in an 8 block area being sprayed. That seems like a lot of sway for one call and I’m in that 8 block area… but I don’t know if we’ve been sprayed or will be sprayed or what the deal is. Kinda unnerving.

  2. “As it is toxic to fish….”

    so what happens to the guy who’s happily keeping a pond full of $3,000 nishikigoi in his back yard?

    A few years back are pond got poisoned with something (we’re still not sure what but hte PM suggested paraquat) somehow. It wasn’t fun burying a load of carp you’ve owned and cared for for 15 years.

  3. This has been a very bad problem for us, so I’ll take any solution that doesn’t involve spraying and potentially hurting good bugs. For our back porch/patio, we’ve added a ceiling fan, a two level indoor/outdoorfan (one pointed low for the pups)and use one of those citronella candles (lit prior to going out for the evening). This works well, but it’s not exactly portable, so gardening (esp. in certain parts of the garden) is a game of trying to kill them between pulling weeds.

    Thankfully, it seems our city doesn’t remember (care) to send the trucks by with the poision in it… keeping fingers crossed that the trend continues.

    Just for the heat we installed a misting system like restaurants use on their outdoor seating areas — they really do reduce the temperature. not sure if it wards off bugs, but it’s lovely.

  4. I forgot to mention – anyone interested/frustrated/bemused by mosquito issues should get a copy of Mosquito: The Story of Man’s Deadliest Foe by Andrew Spielman and Michael D’Antonio.

    A stunning book on the history and biology of mosquitos and their control.

Comments are closed.