What to know

  • Adulticides are types of insecticides used to kill adult mosquitoes.
  • Adulticides may be applied by a mosquito control program, a licensed pest control professional, or as a do-it-yourself application.
  • When used according to product label instructions, adulticides do not harm people, pets, or the environment.
Resting adult female Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito


There are many types of mosquitoes. Some are considered a nuisance. They bite people and animals but do not spread germs. Some mosquitoes can spread viruses like West Nile, dengue, or others.

Some adulticides kill adult mosquitoes immediately and some continue to kill mosquitoes over longer periods of time.

Homeowners can use adulticides outdoors where mosquitoes rest. Mosquitoes rest under plants, in dense brush or tall grasses, and on the undersides of leaves on trees and bushes. They can also rest under the eaves on buildings, under decks and porches, and in moist, shady areas.

Mosquito control professionals also apply adulticides. During an outbreak of mosquito-borne disease, local government departments and mosquito control districts take the lead for large-scale mosquito control activities. Depending on the size of the affected area, licensed mosquito control professionals apply Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered adulticides using trucks or airplanes.

Forms of adulticides

  • Coils
  • Foggers
  • Yard sprays or aerosols
  • Liquids

Information for homeowners

When using adulticides

  • Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Do not apply more product than recommended or reapply more often than stated on product label instructions.
  • Do not apply outside directly to fruits and vegetables in your garden or inside near food.
  • Do not apply to plants in bloom or to plants that bees, butterflies, and other pollinators visit.
  • Keep people and pets out of the area you treat until the product has dried, usually about an hour. Remember to follow label instructions.
Illustration of a person spraying adulticide outdoors
Follow label instructions before spraying adulticides to kill mosquitoes.

Hire a pest control professional if preferred

Hire a pest control professional to treat your yard and outdoor areas. The National Pest Management Association offers tips on finding a pest control professional.

Information for professionals

Local government departments and mosquito control districts use liquid adulticides. One way liquid adulticides can be applied is as an ultra-low volume (ULV) spray. ULV sprayers turn the liquid into very small droplets that float in the air and kill flying mosquitoes on contact. Only small quantities of adulticides are needed to kill adult flying mosquitoes in an area.

Liquid adulticides can also be applied as residual sprays. Liquid is sprayed onto vegetation and buildings and allowed to dry. These treatments focus on sites where mosquitoes are likely to land and rest, exposing them to the adulticide. Residual spraying is a special application that is not often used by local government departments and mosquito control districts. They are more commonly applied by pest control professionals.

Truck used to spray adulticides and larvicides
Professionals use trucks to apply adulticides.

Types of adulticides used by professionals

EPA-registered adulticides have been studied for their effectiveness and safety when used according to label instructions. The main types of adulticides available for use in the United States are organophosphates, natural pyrethrins, and synthetic pyrethroids.


Organophosphates are chemical compounds used to control mosquitoes and plant pests. Organophosphates kill mosquitoes by preventing their nervous systems from working properly. Common organophosphates used by mosquito control professionals in the United States include malathion and naled.

Plant-derived pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids

Plant-derived pyrethrins are extracted from some chrysanthemum flowers. Mosquito control professionals use plant-derived pyrethrins, often referred to as pyrethrum, to kill adult mosquitoes using ULV spraying.

Synthetic pyrethroids are similar to natural pyrethrins. Mosquito control professionals use different types of synthetic pyrethroids to kill adult mosquitoes using ULV spraying. Examples of synthetic pyrethroids include permethrin, sumithrin (d-phenothrin), and deltamethrin.

Both plant-derived pyrethrins and synthetic pyrethroids kill mosquitoes by preventing their nervous systems from working properly.

Information on insecticides and health

Fact sheets

What You Need to Know About Adulticides

What You Need to Know About Outdoor Spraying