So you finally have the back yard you’ve always dreamed of: beautiful landscaping, maybe a sparkling pool or a cozy outdoor fireplace and grill. To you, it’s just one step away from paradise. Except for one thing: those buzzing, biting, blasted mosquitoes.

 

You might think slapping at bugs is just part of outdoor life in Texas . But plenty of local companies say that’s just not so. Methods of fighting mosquitoes, however, can be worlds apart.

 

          One of those companies is Mosquito Masters of Dallas, owned by partners Kyle Crow and Anthony Massey. They install misters that spray an insecticide for 30 seconds at a time, three times a day. Sounds pretty tame, but the short-lived spray packs a wallop. It kills anything airborne in the area at the time, and adds about four hours of residual effect on any surface on which it lands.

 

“It will get rid of basically anything that has six, 10 or eight legs,” Massey says. And though harmful to certain types of vegetation, he says, “it’s entirely safe for humans to be around, and safe for dogs and cats.”

 

          The active ingredient in the spray is pyrethrum, a naturally occurring chemical that comes from the chrysanthemum. For the misters, pyrethrum usually is mixed with chemical catalysts to make it more powerful.

 

With installed systems starting at $3,500, this method doesn’t come cheap. But Steve Herndon, owner of Jackson’s of Dallas , which sells a similar misting system, says many people aren’t deterred by the high price tag.

 

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from our customers,” he says. “It’s a very easy sell.”

 

The product, he says, doesn’t eliminate bugs entirely.

 

“Contrary to what some might say, it won’t kill everything in your back yard,” he says. “There are so many insects, you might kill a few when you spray, but you’re not putting a dent in the insect population.”

 

Herndon also says the mixture is safe for humans and animals.

 

“I’ve been sprayed about 300 times. It doesn’t affect me one bit.”

 

Still, he recommends common sense.

 

“If you have bad allergies, it can affect them. You should wash your hands when being around it, and just be safe with it. One thing I stress is to spray at dusk or at dawn, when you’re not out there at the time, and that way the sun doesn’t burn it off, either.”

 

But Ron Hall, owner of Rons Lawns landscaping service and Organic Dynamics garden store, maintains the risks are higher than anyone is willing to admit. Natural pyrethrum isn’t the problem, he says, because it’s carbon, and your body can break it down.

 

“But when you combine it with synthesized pesticides and catalysts, like they do in these misters, it changes the makeup of the natural pyrethrum,” he says. “Your body can’t break it down. It’s a neurotoxin.”

 

So why not just use the natural pyrethrum? Money, Hall says.

 

“It costs about three times as much,” he says.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s stance is that the use of synthetic chemical insecticides that perform like pyrethrum are generally safe to use and don’t pose unreasonable risks to wildlife, human health or the environment, provided they’re used according to the label. The EPA says, however, that pyrethroids “are considered to pose slight risks of acute toxicity to humans” and at high doses can affect the nervous system.

 

Herndon says his store is looking into offering an all-natural pyrethrum, primarily to make it easier on landscaping.

 

“The new product is more expensive, but a little safer. It’s not going to burn plants,” he says, adding: “If it works, that’s what we’ll move toward.”

 

Hall, however, recommends using natural plant oils, such as clove and thyme, which work as repellants.

 

“Just about any plant that grows and emits a sap seems to repel mosquitoes,” he says. “Just take a plant, rub your hands on it to get the oil, then rub on the exposed skin area.”

 

          Bottom line on the bug battle: There’s no shortage of choices for what to do about those annoying mosquitoes. It’s just a matter of making an informed decision.

 

“It all comes down to choosing what works best for you,” Hall says. “I’m always going to choose the natural plant. But this is , and we all have free choice.”

 


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