Take steps to prevent mosquito attacks this season

Of course you want to spend as much time as possible in your backyard, on the patio or by the pool. But sometimes, it seems like only the mosquitoes benefit from your outdoor activities.

This year, with a little planning, you can avoid bites from these troublesome insects, which can carry a variety of diseases.

Start by removing all standing water from your property. Mosquitoes breed in places such as swamps, marshes and rain pools that can hold water for a week or more. Containers like buckets and flowerpots can recreate these conditions in your backyard. Remove the containers entirely or make a commitment to empty them on a regular basis.

Then, decide on a strategy to discourage mosquitoes in the yard. You can apply insecticide to your grass. Cutter's Bug Free Backyard (www.cutterinsectrepllent.com), can work for up to a month, while Off's Yard and Deck Repellent II (www.offprotects.com) should last a few hours. Or you can get a professional pest-control company to help prevent mosquitoes from moving in.

If you or your kids plan to spend a lot of time outside, you'll want to be sure to apply a personal insect repellent, whether in spray, liquid or lotion form. The chemical DEET has traditionally been used as the active ingredient in mosquito repellents, but the newer picaridin has also proved effective. Repellents that contain a greater amount of their active ingredients last longer, so you'll want to choose one based on the amount of time you're going to stay out.

Before spending an evening in the yard, you'll want to install perimeter defenses - otherwise known as citronella candles or torches. Citronella oil repels insects like mosquitoes, black flies, fleas and ticks, without killing them, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has been used to deter mosquitoes and other bugs since 1948.

Today, you can choose from a big selection of products that contain citronella. Candles come in a number of different containers, from flower pots and metal tins to decorative glass and lanterns. Both Off and Cutter offer refillable citronella lanterns. For example, the Off PowerPad Lamp, with its traditional look, offers coverage for a 15-foot-by-15-foot area and lasts for four hours.

When using citronella candles, keep safety in mind. They should not be lit in enclosed or partially enclosed areas, like carports and porches.