How to Use Adulticides to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

person fogging to kill mosquitos

Want to get rid of mosquitoes? Don’t want to wait? Then you want to use adulticides. But unless you want the mosquitoes to win (that is, survive, while you hide indoors), you should learn how to use adulticides to get rid of mosquitoes. We’ll tell you.

What an Adulticide Is

An adulticide is a form of insecticide that is used to kill adult mosquitoes. They are usually applied by a mosquito control program or a professional service, but if you want, you can apply them on a do-it-yourself basis. They should be used outdoors, accordinag to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Adulticides are used to fight off an infestation, as an effort to prevent the illnesses that mosquitoes can bring. Adulticides can be used by public health programs without endangering people or the environment if stringent protocols are followed, the EPA has found. EPA testing is on-going.

People have died and others have reported suffering headaches, dizziness, and nausea when exposed to large amounts of adulticides, the California Department of Public Health reported. An adulticide is used in the adult stage of the mosquito life cycle. Larvicides are used to go after mosquitoes in the larval and/or pupal stages. 

Adulticides Kill

graphic showing a mosquito life cycle

There is an element of danger from adulticides, which is why:

  • Outdoors is the place for them. Don’t use them in the house.
  • You stay indoors immediately after they are sprayed.
  • Know yourself. If you have asthma or similar lung issues, or chemical sensitivity, you will suffer during mosquito spraying. Be sure to avoid areas that have been sprayed, and think twice about having it done in your yard.
  • Follow the instructions. This can’t be emphasized enough. And be especially aware that products often have slightly different instructions. The EPA makes a point of saying it finds no risk in the use of an adulticide only if label instructions are followed.

A pro’s tip: Let a government mosquito control program or a licensed pest control company apply them. Pest Gnome can connect you to the best pest control experts in your area to control mosquitoes and deal with mosquito populations.

Forms of Adulticides

Mosquito adulticides come in different forms:

a burning mosquito coil
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  • Coils. This is something you burn. Widely used outside of the U.S., mosquito coils are usually 6 inches across. They are lit and burn slowly.
man fogging to eliminate mosquitos
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  • Foggers. The adulticide can be spread by truck or airplane, as an ultra-low volume (ULV) spray that sends out very fine aerosol droplets that stay in the air and kill by contacting mosquitoes as they fly. ULV applications involve small quantities of pesticide, usually less than 1.2 ounces per acre.  

    Some people make mosquito fogging a do-it-yourself operation. There are kits available that will enable you to turn a leaf blower into a DIY fogging machine, or you can buy a machine at any home improvement store or online.

    But remember: You will be breathing in that fog (you will want a very good mask to limit it). Also, neighbors are known to see the fog, think something bad (fire?) is happening, and call 9-1-1.
worker using pesticides on yard
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  • Mosquito yard sprays. These go after mosquitoes on places where they land. Mosquito yard sprays are sprayed onto plants and on to buildings, then allowed to dry. They are dispersed by handheld sprayers, or ones in backpacks. They are effective on small areas, but not on large areas (acres or more) or difficult-to-reach areas.

Where to Apply Adulticides 

graphic showing protecting the home from mosquitos
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You should apply adulticides to the places where mosquitoes rest:

In nature:

  • Plants. They like to gather underneath plants during the middle of the day and rest in the shade.
  • Tall grass 
  • Shrubbery and dense brush
  • Undersides of leaves, especially those thick, heavy ones
  • In moist, shady areas that have turned up

At the house:

  • Under the eaves of buildings, both high up and on the ground level
  • Under porches, decks, and awnings
  • Gazebos and other structures
  • Carports, or any parking garage that is open
  • Waste areas, such as garbage cans and the places you keep grass clippings or compost 

Be Careful When Applying Adulticides Yourself

spray to remove the insects and pests
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  • Avoid fruits and vegetables. Adulticides should not be applied directly to them.
  • Avoid plants in bloom.
  • Avoid plants that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • Apply in the evening to avoid spraying when bees are active.
  • Stay away for an hour after applying (or the time recommended on the label). This includes children (as well as adults) and pets. It gives the product time to dry.
  • Follow the instructions. They should be on the label. It matters.

Be Careful When Adulticides Are Applied by Your City

  • Pay attention for announcements, perhaps in local media, that spraying is coming. 
  • Remain inside when spraying is going on outside.
  • Consult a doctor beforehand if you have chemical sensitivities, asthma, or breathing issues. You might need to leave the area.
  • Keep windows closed during spraying.
  • Turn off window air conditioners during spraying.
  • Keep children from playing behind or near trucks that are spraying. Kids used to do this, often with their parents looking on and laughing. Now we know it is risky.

Scientific Breakdown of Adulticides


  • Are chemical compounds. If used carefully, they shouldn’t harm children or pregnant women. 

    People are known to ingest organophosphates by eating fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with it, the CDC warns. People will also get it on their hands while gardening, then touch their hands to their mouth.
  • Kill mosquitoes by disrupting their nervous systems

Two common types of organophosphates:

  • Malathion is the most common form used on the ground, with 90 percent of its use coming from truck spraying.
  • Naled is the most common form used in aerial spraying, used on 16 million acres in the U.S.


  • Plant-derived pyrethrins are extracted from chrysanthemum flowers
  • Synthetic pyrethoids are chemical versions of pyrethrins. Permethrin, resmethrin, and d-phenothrin are the most common ones.
  • Used by professionals in ULV spraying
  • Kill mosquitoes by interfering with their nervous systems

The Use of Essential Oils

Essential oils are being marketed as an over-the-counter adulticide that uses natural and safe-to-human ingredients to control mosquitoes. Although these are a popular option for many homeowners, more research is needed to determine their effectiveness.


Can I DIY With Adulticides?

Yes, but adulticides can injure your health, as well as that of other people (especially children), pets, and the environment. But if you really want to apply them on a do-it-yourself basis (something people turn to if they have an outbreak of mosquitoes before a party), remember the benefit doesn’t last long.

Instead of using adulticides at your house, you should simply make it a point to remove standing water from the ground, and from lawn furniture and pool covers and the like. If you don’t have standing water, you won’t attract mosquitoes.

What is the Difference Between Thermal Fogging vs. Cold Fogging?

Thermal fogging involves using heat to vaporize the insecticide. Cold fogging uses air pressure, making it better for people who breathe it in and for the environment.

What Are the Mosquito-Borne Diseases?

The following are mosquito-borne diseases transmitted by mosquito bites in the U.S., according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

West Nile virus. Some 2,500 cases are reported annually to the CDC, which cautions that most cases are not reported.
Yellow Fever. Almost eradicated in the 1950s, it has not only returned, but is surprisingly turning up in urban areas.
Dengue. Transmitted by the same mosquito species as yellow fever, cases are also turning up in the U.S., though few places routinely test for it.
Malaria. Some 2,000 cases are reported annually to the CDC. While the CDC believes that in most cases people are infected while visiting other countries, there are also cases in which the people never left the U.S.
Chikungunya. It has been making its way to the U.S., becoming a factor in the Caribbean islands. There were no reported cases in the U.S. before 2006, then 2,800 in 2014, then few than 50 cases reported in the last few years. 
Zika. There was an outbreak of 5,000 cases in 2016, with 224 of them in people who had not traveled. However, there have been only a handful if cases since then, according to CDC reporting. 

What is the Difference Between an Insecticide and an Adulticide?

An adulticide is a type of insecticide. In mosquito control, insecticides are of two main types:

Adulticide, the effort for adult mosquito control
Larvicide, the effort to control mosquitoes in the larval or pupal stages. One of the most popular mosquito larvicides is bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis, or Bti.

Can I Use Insect Growth Regulators (IGRs) With Adulticides?

Yes, it’s possible. If you are applying adulticides yourself, something that professionals know is that you can combine the use of adulticides and IGRs. The adulticides will kill adults. The IGR (which often uses methoprene), prevents insects from reaching the adult phase of life.

A Call to Action

If you are dealing with swarms of adult mosquitoes, you will want to decide what to do, then act. If you do nothing, their population can be expected to grow.

You can apply adulticides as a do-it-yourself project, but experts recommend you call in a professional. Contact Pest Gnome to connect you with a pro in your area. 

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Ted Rodgers

Ted Rodgers has been an editor and writer for a half century at least, and has had to deal with pests throughout. His home is still standing, which is one (small) definition of success in dealing with them. He is willing to pause in his battles long enough to share what he has learned. He borrows from Beatrix Potter when he shares this truth about pests: “Tiddly, widdly, but not piddly.”