How to build a mosquito kill bucket

Mosquitoes threaten our comfort and health, as they can transmit diseases like malaria, Zika, West Nile virus, and heartworm. Not to mention the irritation of a constant itch.

While traditional mosquito control methods often involve using insecticides that can harm beneficial insects and the environment, an effective alternative is using mosquito larva traps. These traps target mosquitoes in their larval stage, reducing the reliance on harmful chemicals. Fortunately, setting up a mosquito larva trap at home is a simple and efficient way to mitigate the mosquito population in your yard.

Why target the larval stage?

Targeting mosquitoes at the larval stage is more effective and environmentally friendly than spraying adult mosquitoes. When adult mosquitoes are targeted with improper applications of spray, the high concentrations of insecticides can kill a wide range of insects, including bees and butterflies. This disruption in the ecosystem can have cascading effects, as many birds and small mammals rely on these insects for food. By focusing on the larval stage, we can control mosquito populations without broader ecological impacts.

What is BTi?

BTi, or Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium used in mosquito control products known as Mosquito Dunks. These dunks are donut-shaped briquettes that float on the surface of standing water where mosquitoes breed. When placed in water, the dunks release BTi spores ingested by mosquito larvae. The BTi bacteria produce toxins that specifically target the larvae’s gut, disrupting their digestive processes and ultimately causing death. This method effectively reduces mosquito populations without harming other wildlife, pets, or humans.

BTi specifically targets mosquito and black fly larvae, making it safe for use around fish, birds, and other non-target organisms. Mosquito Dunks provide a long-lasting solution, as each dunk can be effective for up to 30 days in standing water, making them a popular choice for residential and commercial mosquito management.

How to create a mosquito larva trap

Building a mosquito kill bucket is a straightforward way to control mosquito populations. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a mosquito trap:


  • Container: A five-gallon bucket or a similar-sized container
  • Water: Preferably from a rain barrel to avoid chlorinated water
  • Organic Material: Straw, hay, or even grass clippings to attract mosquitoes
  • Mosquito Dunk: Contains Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt-i), a bacterium harmful only to mosquito larvae
Making a mosquito kill bucket is simple. Images: Debbie Wolfe/Popular Science


  1. Prepare the container
    Place the bucket in a sunny spot to keep it warm, accelerating the fermentation process.
  2. Add organic material
    Add a handful of organic matter, like leaves, grass clippings or hay to the bucket. This organic material begins to ferment, producing a scent that attracts female mosquitoes.
  3. Add Water
    Fill the bucket with water. If using tap water, let it sit for 24-48 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate, or use rainwater.
  4. Let it ferment
    Allow the mixture to sit for a few days until it starts to ferment, creating an irresistible breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  5. Add Mosquito Dunk
    Once mosquitoes have laid their eggs in the water, add a Mosquito Dunk to the mix. The Bt-i in the dunk will kill the mosquito larvae but leave other insects unharmed.
  6. Place in a shady area
    The bucket should be placed in a shady area, or any area where there are frequent issues with mosquitoes.
  7. Maintenance
    Regularly check the trap and add fresh water as needed to maintain the level. Replace the dunk every 30 days or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Optional enhancements

  • Covering: To prevent pets or wildlife from drinking from the mosquito kill bucket, cover it with chicken wire or a similar mesh.
  • Camouflage: If the bucket’s appearance is a concern, consider using a decorative cover or placing it discreetly under bushes.
orange bucket in bushes covered in chicken wire
Cover your bucket to prevent pets or kids from taking a sip. Image: Debbie Wolfe/Popular Science

Environmental impact and safety

Utilizing mosquito larva traps as described substantially diminishes the necessity for extensive chemical spraying. These traps are deemed safe for areas frequented by children and pets, though it is recommended that they be covered to prevent accidental ingestion of the water or drowning.

Mosquito larva traps offer a targeted, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional mosquito control methods. Concentrating on the larval stage, these traps effectively reduce mosquito populations without the negative impacts of chemical insecticides.

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