We recently moved from a patio home in the big city (Houston) to a cottage in a small, country town (Brenham). In Houston we didn’t really have any outdoor living space as we shared a common courtyard with neighbors, but here in Brenham we purposely bought a house that could provide a nice outdoor lifestyle. We purchased in the fall of last year and since then we’ve made improvements to the backyard, such as putting up an 8′ privacy fence and driveway gate, giving us a private, shady retreat to enjoy.
However, this being the southern half of Texas, the coming of spring and summer meant that the mosquitos ended up taking over and driving us back inside most mornings and evenings. Also, since we have two permanent dogs, and one temp dog that we’re babysitting, our backyard has a certain amount of…how to say this delicately…um…organic….err…excretions? Natural…fertilizer? Canine compost? Okay, dog poop. And with dog poop come flies. We’re excrutiatingly uninterested in policing the poop, and we feed our dogs a very high grade of dog food, so the volume isn’t huge, particuarly for the size of our dogs (80lbs, 80lbs, and 25lbs). Nevertheless, the flies were also annoying and gross, but fortunately not the biting kind.
So we started on a project of figuring out the best way to take back control of our backyard. I won’t say that money was no object, but we weren’t going to penny-pinch and were willing to spend into the low four figures for a good solution. We first looked at the wide variety of mosquito traps out there, such as the Mosquito Magnet, SkeeterVac, Mega-Catch, etc. What we found was that while the underlying concept behind these devices appears to be sound (catching mosquitoes with CO2 and other lures), the implementations were horribly unreliable and the results were spotty.
These devices almost all work by luring the mosquitos in with some set of attractants, such as CO2, lurex, octenol, lights, and/or heat, then using a fan to suction the little buggers into a holding net where they remain stuck until they die. Also, it seems that most of the mosquitos in your yard actually live in your yard, meaning if you can trap and kill the ones in your yard, you break the cycle of population and then only have to deal with ones that stray in from the surrounding area.
But for every story of success, there were three stories of device failure, with most failures occurring at the start of the second season of use when trying to get the traps to start up again after having been stored away for weeks or months. I wasn’t able to find a single personal account of anyone using one of these devices for more than one season without having issues. Also, the company that originally introduced the product and concept, American Biophysics with their Mosquito Magnet, had gone bankrupt and their acquiring company seemed to be completely disinterested in any type of customer service. This reinforced my take that while mosquito traps could work in the short term, and the scientific concepts appeared sound, the engineering has fallen short. And at $300-$1,000 per device it was a little too expensive to roll the dice and deal with a string of lemons year after year. We’re keeping our eyes peeled and will probably buy one if/when somebody proves they can make one that both works and lasts.
After ruling out these devices, the field of possible solutions became much less clear. We knew that we didn’t want to fog our yard with insecticide or any other toxins. Bug zappers seemed particularly useless. We were so desperate we even considered the SkeeterBag, which appears to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Redneck World (and, truthfully? we’re still considering it because of its simple and logical design). We also didn’t want to have to slather anything onto ourselves, even if it were natural and safe, as having to get gooped/slimed up every time we wanted to enjoy the cool of the evening just seemed like a zen-kill.
Then we came across the CedarCide site. The site itself looks kind of rough around the edges (note to the folks from CedarCide if you read this – we do web site development and would be willing to barter web services for cedar oil goods!) which made us skeptical that they were not a “real” company. But the more we read the more sense their story seemed to make. The basic concept is that the majority of bugs out there are repelled by cedar, including mosquitos and flies. The folks at CedarCide extract the oil from red Texas cedars and package it in various liquid and solid forms for consumer use.
Also compelling was the long, long, list of testimonials on their website. Now, normally, I place no stock in testimonials for products that are placed on the site selling said products, as they are handpicked and in some cases seemingly falsified, as they quote company prose as they describe the wonderfulness of their purchase. But I don’t know how to describe it, these rang true and seemed “real”, for lack of a better word.
The bottom line was we figured that we could try their products for no great cost, cedar oil couldn’t really hurt anything, and if it worked then great, if not then lesson learned for small number of dollars (compared to propane-based mosquito traps). So we ordered the YardSafe concentrate ($49.95 for a gallon, including a hose-end sprayer attachment) and the Vet’s Choice ($99.95 for a quart, but dilutes quite a bit) bath/dip.
We first tried the YardSafe by spraying our whole backyard. I included the wooden fence and the sides of the house as well as the part of the driveway the extends to the back, and I also gave the lawn furniture a light misting. That night we went outside in the late evening and encountered zero mosquitos or bites, whereas previously we would have been chased in with dozens of bites within a few minutes. We still had a few flies hanging around, but greatly reduced from the previous evening. The beneficial effects lasted for several days, then it rained for a couple of days, and on the next non-rainy evening we went out and the flies were back in increased numbers (but still less than before the treatment) but still no mosquitos. I gave area a quick refresher spraying and that chased off all but a few flies.
We’ve been using the spray now for a couple of weeks and we have only a few occasional flies, and after about a week after spraying (or two or three days of heavy rain) the mosquitoes start to return (but only a few). Our general process is to give the backyard a good spraying every weekend after mowing, and then to do quick spot sprayings as needed if the rain interferes with effectiveness.
And that process has given us back our backyard!! It’s actually amazing how quickly and effectively it chases away the mosquitoes. In fact, even if at some future date we get a propane mosquito trap, we’ll probably still use the CedarCide because it is *immediately* effective and it doesn’t take weeks like the propane traps to have an impact.
We also dipped our dogs in the Pet’s Choice and they smelled really nice. Not sure if had any effect on fleas (not sure they had any), but it didn’t hurt them and they smelled really good. Not sure the Pet’s Choice is worth money, but we’ll use up this batch and see if it has a better cumulative benefit.
All in all, we’re going to be buying a lot more YardSafe over the years. If you have a backyard plagued with mosquitoes, flies, and other bothersome pests, you may want to give it a try!