Do Citronella Candles Work? Repellents to Try Instead

You'll probably still get mosquito bites with a lit citronella candle nearby

How to Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Yard

The Spruce / Alex Dos Diaz

Knowing how to keep mosquitoes away from the yard begs the question: do citronella candles work? These most annoying flying pests are only 1/8- to 1/4-inch-long but they inhabit nearly every place on Earth, sucking blood, leaving itchy welts, and spreading troubling diseases, including West Nile, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika, among many others. You can keep mosquitoes out of your home with fully intact window and door screens. Outdoors, the best solution for combatting these pests is to eliminate the source of all mosquito life: standing water. Here are more repellants, tips, and advice on how to keep mosquitoes away.


Click Play to Learn How to Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Yard

How Mosquito-Repellent Are Citronella Candles?

Citronella candles are moderately effective at repelling mosquitoes but only in the immediate area surrounding the candle. The closer you are to the candle, the less you will be the victim of a mosquito bite. You should think of citronella products as just one layer of protection against mosquitoes. Citronella candles do not keep mosquitoes out of your yard and they do nothing to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying.


When candles don't work, try a mosquito repellent. Some are quite effective for hours at a time, including Picaridin Insect Repellent, Repel, or Thermacell Patio Shield

Closeup showing a trio of lit citronella candles on a wooden picnic table outdoors

Mireille Roy / Getty Images

3 Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

Getting rid of mosquitoes is not unlike getting rid of mold or the common cold: These things are facts of life—they're everywhere, and you can't possibly get rid of them or prevent them entirely. What you can do is take steps to minimize their numbers. Like mold, mosquitoes need moisture to grow and thrive, so most treatment steps focus on eliminating or treating potential breeding grounds of water. You can also use fans to keep mosquitoes away when you're sitting outdoors.

Tidy the Yard

Nearly anything capable of holding water, be it natural or manmade, is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. Rain or irrigation water falling on leaves, palm fronds, and other yard debris creates small pools where mosquitoes lay eggs to reproduce. Keep the yard neat to eliminate this problem. In addition, don't leave pet dishes, furniture, candle holders, or other manmade items where they can collect water.

Blue rake picking up dead leaves to tidy up the yard

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Treat Water Sources

If you have a pond or other decorative water feature in your yard, you don't have to drain it to prevent mosquitoes from breeding there. The easiest solution is to treat the water with a larvicide that kills mosquito eggs. Treatment products such as Mosquito Dunks are suitable to use in ponds, birdbaths, and fountains because they are safe for fish, birds, and other animals. If you keep fish in a pond, you may not need any treatment, as many common pond fish species, such as bass, goldfish, mosquitofish, bluegill, and catfish, eat mosquito larvae.

Instead of treating water in birdbaths, it's better to simply empty and refill them with fresh water every few days—mosquito larvae hatch in as few as four days.

Plants that hold water should be treated or flushed with fresh water every few days. Bromeliads have leaf axils that can hold enough water to support mosquito breeding. Treatments include bacteria that must be applied once a week and methoprene, a treatment that lasts for 30 days.

Decorative water fountain with treated water to prevent mosquitos

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Fire up a Fan

Running an ordinary (but preferably strong) household fan is the most effective non-toxic way to keep mosquitoes away from you while you're sitting outdoors. A fan can reduce mosquito landings (on your skin, that is) up to 65 percent for those sitting near the fan.An oscillating fan is best for covering a large area for multiple people, but even a simple box fan will do the job if you're sitting in the fan's stream.

Large round fan running to reduce mosquito landings

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

What Causes Mosquitoes

Some associate mosquito invasions with water, so you might also think this means swampy areas and relatively large bodies of water. In reality, mosquitoes can breed in the amount of water contained in an upturned bottlecap. The following are some of the things in a yard that commonly collect water and lead to increased numbers of mosquitoes:

  • Low-lying ground or contours
  • Drainage areas
  • Plant pots and trays
  • Stacked or overturned patio furniture
  • Tires
  • Birdbaths
  • Trash
  • Debris piles
  • Untreated or neglected swimming pools or decorative ponds
  • Roof gutters that are dirty or clogged
  • Tree holes
  • Upturned buckets and trash containers
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Boats
  • Pet bowls

How to Prevent Mosquitoes From Invading Your Yard

Given that mosquito hatches can occur in as few as four days, preventing invasions requires diligence and regular maintenance. If you fail to keep the yard clean of debris and items that can hold water, a single rainstorm can quickly lead to a spike in mosquito numbers. Eliminating potential breeding areas is the primary prevention method.

Many homeowners and professionals turn to chemicals for mosquito prevention. Proper application of insecticide is effective for killing mosquito larvae and thus reducing mosquito numbers, but the effect is always temporary, and the chemicals used are not only toxic to humans, but they also can harm bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insect populations. Sprays also have contributed significantly to pesticide resistance in mosquitoes, making it increasingly difficult to deal with mosquitos on a large scale, such as during an outbreak of disease spread by mosquitoes.

  • Do light traps work against mosquitoes?

    Light traps, or electric "bug zappers," kill mosquitoes, along with gnats, flies, and other small insects, but there is no scientific evidence that these devices reduce the number of mosquitoes in an area or that they reduce the chance of getting bitten. Evidence proves that they do more harm to beneficial insects than to mosquitoes and because light traps can draw mosquitoes into an area, they can potentially bring the bugs closer to people rather than repelling them.

  • Are misting systems safe and effective?

    Residential misting systems that automatically release sprays of toxic insecticide, typically permethrin, pyrethrins, and piperonyl butoxide, are not regulated or approved by the EPA. State and local regulations of these systems vary. As with other sprayed pesticide treatments for mosquitoes, including DIY and professional application, the pesticides are non-selective and can harm pollinators and other beneficial species of plants and animals. The effectiveness of these systems is difficult to verify (and easy for manufacturers to exaggerate).

  • Do ultrasonic repellants work?

    The ultrasonic, or sonic, repellant is a battery-powered or plug-in device that is worn or set near people to repel mosquitoes by emitting sounds to frighten away the female insects (only the females bite humans). However, these devices have not been scientifically proven to work, nor are the sounds proven to scare away the female. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission charged one manufacturer with making false and unsubstantiated claims because it had no evidence supporting the product claims.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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