Are you getting eaten alive by mosquitos as the summer heats up? You don’t necessarily have to spend and arm and a leg on those expensive mosquito traps or misting services. There’s a solution that also works well and costs a lot less.
Why haven’t you heard about this mosquito trap? Because no one sells it. You make it yourself, and it can last for up 90 days before you need to replace the ingredients. And it’s cheap to build, consisting of just a bucket with a lid, some paint sticks and two types of pesticide. We learned about this method on a web site by a retired PhD scientist in Hawaii who evidently developed it.
The method is based on two different pesticides. One long lasting organic one for the water in the bucket where mosquitoes try to lay eggs, and a second long lasting one for a landing strip that you place inside the bucket.
The Do-It-Yourself trap requires these supplies. All the links are Amazon affiliate links, for ease of purchase at one location.
1.) A 3 or 5 gallon bucket with a tight lid. If you purchase a white one, it’s best to paint it black or brown. Mosquitoes are attracted better to dark colors.
2.) Wood 1″ sticks – You can use paint sticks, which are often free at hardware stores — or you can buy a package of 12. They should fit diagonally across the bottom of the bucket and reach up out of the water. The purpose of them is to provide a landing spot sticking out of the water when the mosquitoes go inside the bucket. If there’s no landing spot, they are less likely to go inside. This way, if they land to rest, they’re toast because the stick has a long lasting insecticide on it! The reason to buy multiple sticks is so that you can treat them all at once and retain the extras for switching out over time. It’s also good to put 2 or three landing strips inside each bucket.
3.) Bifenthrin – This insecticide is used to make the landing pads that stick up out of the water. Bifenthrin is not an organic insecticide, but it is legally allowed for use even in kitchen and pantry areas where food is handled. So as a non-organic pesticide, it is a pretty good choice. It is also rated to last for several weeks when it is sprayed on the wood landing strips, meaning that it will continue to work over time. If you attempt to use a different pesticide on wooden landing strips, it might not be rated to last longer than a day or two and will be ineffective, or it might be a more dangerous pesticide.
Want to go completely organic and avoid the Bifenthrin?
Here’s a different design of mosquito trap that only uses organic spinosad instead, or a similar method with only spinosad mentioned in the NY Times.
4.) Spinosad – This bacteria-based insecticide is used in the water in the bottom of the bucket to kill mosquitos that land to lay eggs and their offspring. It is harmless to people (but deadly to many types of insects!) and can even be sprayed on vegetable crops and used in a vegetable garden. It has also been studied as a bacteria that can persist in the bucket water for more than 90 days, so it will continue to be effective as long as you don’t let the water evaporate. Add more to the bucket every four to six weeks to make sure it is still working.
The steps to make the trap are illustrated in this video.
1.) Cut 3-4 three inch holes in the top of the bucket lid. This can be done with a utility knife, a packing knife or a drill if the lid is thick. Be sure not to cut or drill toward your hand because the plastic can be hard to cut.
2.) Use a black bucket or paint the outside of the bucket black or dark brown to make it blend in better and attract more mosquitos.
3.) Make the landing pad strips. First, use a permanent marker to draw a grip-line at the top so you know which part of the stick is clean to grip, and which part has poison on it. Use gloves. Be careful. Follow all instructions on the pesticide label for safety. Take an 8 ounce measuring cup and add one ounce of Bifenthrin, two teaspoons of food coloring and fill the rest with water. You can pour this solution into a spray bottle or use a paint brush to apply it. Apply the solution to the long end of the stick below line drawn with your marker. Apply the solution to both sides and allow to dry. Store extra sticks in a cool dry place.
4) Add approximately 1 gallon of pond water or rain water to bucket. If you don’t have access to pond water, you can use distilled water with a handful of compost added. You can use tap water — as long as you allow the chlorine to evaporate by letting the water sit for 12-24 hours before you add the spinosad. You don’t want the fresh tap water to kill most of the bacteria. Use about a liquor shot’s worth of spinosad to the water. Spinosad is a bacterial insecticide, so you want to get enough for it to live and get established in the chlorine-free water.
5.) Put the landing strip in the water using gloves, with the poison side pointing up toward the hole. Place two or three strips in each bucket so there are multiple places inside the bucket for the mosquitoes to land.
6.) Seal the bucket, and place it in a spot where mosquitos gather.
This trap is relatively safe for use around pets, because the holes are too small for them to get inside. With the lid on tight, only mosquitoes or insects can get inside the small holes.
Use good judgement. Make sure that the holes are sized properly so that they are not too big. Make sure the lid cannot be removed too easily. Place the bucket where curious children or pets will not get near it and be sure to explain to any children old enough to avoid the bucket. Put the bucket in a location where it will not fill up with fresh rainwater and wash away the spinosad and cover the landing strips.
You will need to check it every week or so to make sure the liquid inside doesn’t evaporate, if you are in a hot, dry area. You can replace the landing strips and water as needed depending on how hot it is in your area.
Do not burn the Bifenthrin wooden strips when you are finished with them. Follow all disposal instructions on the label of the product. You should notice a measurable decrease in the mosquito population over a period of a few weeks. It is not instant, because only females that are ready to lay eggs are attracted to the trap.
Important! Don’t abandon the trap!
If you stop using it and leave it out in the rain where it collects more rainwater and the pesticide wears off, it will become a mosquito factory. It is safe to pour out the water in the yard when you are through using it, and use instructions on the label to dispose of the sticks. Do not burn the sticks.
Let us know if you try this in the comments.
Mother Earth News — different style of trap that only uses Spinosad.
NY Times article — studies that have shown the great effectiveness of killing mosquito populations with spinosad safely.
I see the Spinosad in the water should last for 90 days. How long should the Bifenthrin sticks last? Article says they should last several weeks. I used food coloring in my Bifenthrin solution. Is that an indicator of where it is on the stick or when color fades I know its time to swap sticks?
Hi I have a water butt which when full attracts mozzies due to the water being stagnant is there something I can put in it to keep the water cleaner
Toni Lee says
Angela, if you have any body of standing water like a pool, birdbath, pond, etc that mosquitoes are breeding in, try using mosquito dunks. They contain a poison that comes from a bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis). The poison kills mosquitoes but is harmless to humans, animals and most other insects (so it won’t affect beneficial pollinators like honeybees).
I can’t wait to try this. Question about the spinosad… If I already have mosquito dunks on hand, would the dunks serve the same purpose? Or does spinosad kill the laying females while the dunks only kill the larvae?
Bummed the poised nectar isn’t available! I’ve got links bookmarked in case i get an urge to science one day, but for now overripe nectarines aren’t on hand.
Rubye Wiggins says
I tried to pull up the video but it wouldn’t play,just kept buffering,it would have been helpful to put pictured directions in also so one could figure it out without the video
I am trying to kill the mosquitoes and not harm ANY honeybees or other good insects. Are the bees likely to find their way into the bucket?
Doesn’t the Bifenthrin on the landing strips kill the bacteria in the water?
I had the same concern about the Bifenthrin nulling out the dunks or bacteria. I just started this approach so we’ll see. On a couple buckets once I realized this, I tried to keep the Bifenthrin portion out of the water.
Christmas Snow says
You are chock full of bad advice.