Dear Jim: Mosquitoes are eating me alive. I use two electric bug zappers all night, but they don't help much. If I use more, how much will it push up my electric bills. Are there other effective gadgets or options? -- Mike D.
Dear Mike: Controlling mosquitoes is neither a hopeless nor an expensive task. By using a combination of low-cost methods, I have been able to control them in my own yard and I live next to a woods and a creek.
Lighted-type bug zappers are not always effective against mosquitoes. The loud snaps that you hear are often larger beneficial bugs being fried. Many of these good bugs, like dragonflies, help to control mosquitoes.
A large electric bug zapper uses up to 100 watts of electricity. If you switch on two units and leave them on all night (it's easy to forget to switch them off), they use 20 cents worth of electricity per day.
There are several new designs of electronic mosquito-specific bug killers that are effective. Some designs produce a heat signature of animal skin (no light) or use "cow's breath" scent or both. This special scent simulates cows, a favorite blood source for female mosquitoes.
Some mosquito killers use a unique varying temperature source, from 95 to 110 degrees, to attract a broad range of biting mosquito species. A small fan, on a pole-mounted model, simulates breathing. When mosquitoes get close to it, the air flow sucks them inside and they are electrocuted.
There are also ground models that use the same basic varying temperature design. These have an electric eye to automatically shut off during the day. One unit (handles a normal yard) uses about $8 of electricity per month.
Electric and battery mosquito repellers also help. They emit high-frequency sound to repel biting female mosquitoes. Small (size of a lipstick tube) clip-on battery models (cost about $8) can protect a person outdoors.
Attracting bats, birds (eastern or western bluebirds and purple martins) and toads to your yard is an effective complement to an electric mosquito control device. One bat can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per night and it operates for free -- no electricity or batteries.
To attract bats and birds, either buy or build birdhouses specifically designed for them. A bluebird house, for example, has no entrance perch in order to keep out other birds and it has a pivoting side for cleaning. An overturned flowerpot makes a good home for a toad.
The most effective, no-cost mosquito control tip is to empty all standing water. Check carefully after the next rain for locations of standing water.
Write for (or instant download -- www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 851 -- list of mosquito-specific bug killers and repellers, simple mosquito control tips and plans for making bat, bluebird and purple martin houses. Please include $3 and a business-size self-address, stamped envelope.
James Dulley, The Buffalo News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.