Sweet devices that claim to kill mosquitoes

Yeast-based mosquito control devices

In the United States, seven companies are selling tubes filled with water, sugar, and yeast for mosquito control.

The marketing pitch is that mosquitoes will be drawn to the devices by carbon dioxide (produced from yeast consuming the sugar), enter the device through tiny holes at the top, ingest some of the fluid inside, squeeze back out of the tube through the same holes, and then die (e.g., by exploding) due to the effects of a chemical (table salt, boric acid, garlic oil, etc.) dissolved in the fluid. Some of the companies claim their tubes will rid a yard of mosquitoes for months.

1. Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Contains sugar, yeast, and salt. First sold in 2016 as the Spartan Mosquito Bomb, the company says these tubes will eradicate mosquito populations for up to 90 days. Company is based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was founded by Jeremy Hirsch (a Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches franchisee) and Chris Bonner (works at father’s chemical testing company). Here’s an ad. Here’s another. The tube is now the focus of a $5 million lawsuit. You can now buy refills on Amazon.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

2. Sock-It Skeeter

Contains sugar, yeast, and salt. Produced by the same company (AC2T, Inc.) that makes the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Here is a commercial about the device. I don’t think this is sold anymore.

Sock-It Skeeter

3. Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Contains sugar, yeast, citric acid, calcium carbonate, salt, and sodium lauryl sulfate (the latter two ingredients are supposed to be the active ingredients). Marketed as capable of eradicating mosquitoes for 90 days. Owners say that it has “more potent attractants in the lure for the traps than Spartan”. Company is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and owned by Jeff Clowdus (owner of JCL Tech LED lighting) and his brother Tim. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

4. Mosquito XT

Contains sugar, yeast, baking soda, and salt. Company is based in Paragould, Arkansas, and owned by Kevin King, an insurance broker. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Mosquito XT

5. Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Contains sugar, yeast, and boric acid. Company claims it kills mosquitoes for 30 days. Here are some ads. Despite claims, the device doesn’t appear to attract mosquitoes. Here’s a comparison of the Pro Tech and the Eradicator. Company is now marketing the tube as an effective weapon in fight against malaria in Africa and Asia. Good lord that’s a horrifying prospect. Curious why the EPA registered this device? Here’s my 2 cents (company hired the PR firm behind Brexit). EPA was snookered.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

6. Skeeter Eater

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. Company says it eradicates mosquitoes for 90 days. Distributed by Copia Products (a manufacturer of baby products) in Memphis Tennessee and is owned by Wade Whitely. Made in Columbia. Per a recent YouTube review the product has been rebranded as the Aion Mosquito Eliminator. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Skeeter Eater

7. Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Contains sugar, yeast, citric acid, calcium carbonate, and garlic oil. Described in ads as “highly effective” and providing “chemical free”, “round the clock”, “full-perimeter protection”. Company is part of Alliance Sports Group based in Grand Prairie, Texas. Owned by Larry Easterwood and family. My favorite line from a user’s review: “The light is a nice reminder it’s working.” Here’s a YouTube review that concludes device does not kill mosquitoes. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

8. Grandpa Gus’s Mosquito Dynamiter

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. Company claims the device will eradicate up to 95% of mosquitoes for up to 90 days. Says mosquitoes “literally explode”. The containers are wasp traps made in China by Xiamen Consolidates Manufacture And Trading Co., Ltd. Here’s an ad. This device doesn’t appear to be registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides. Grandpa Gus is based in Austin, Texas and is owned by Nick Olynyk, an expert on junior hockey. UPDATE: device is no longer for sale, per owner.

Grandpa Gus's Mosquito Dynamiter

9. Tougher Than Tom’s Mosquito TNT

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. The containers are the same wasp traps used by Grandpa Gus’s (above). Not surprisingly, they kill honey bees. Per casting calls for the commercials, the target demographic is white folks who shop at Whole Foods (I’m not making this up); the ads target only women, too. Here’s an ad. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides. Exactly who owns Tougher Than Tom is unclear, but it seems to be managed by an Austin marketing firm called Simply Strive headed by Zachary S. Collins, an expert on autonomous media buyers. Olynyk and Collins apparently first collaborated on Real Deal Dating LLC, and both are officers in Sask Connect Marketing LLC.

Do any of these work?

Unlikely.

For example, when scientists tested the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, they concluded the device did not work. And a separate team of scientists have concluded that salt (an ingredient in most of these devices) does not kill mosquitoes.

It’s worth noting that none of the companies has released any efficacy data. Similarly, none of the companies has posted video evidence of mosquitoes being attracted to their devices when deployed in a yard. And none of the companies show mosquitoes dying when the device is deployed outside. All the hallmarks of snake-oil salesmen.

Why are these devices only in the United States?

There are mosquitoes all over the world, so it’s curious that there are so many yeast-and-sugar contraptions for sale in the United States and nowhere else. It’s possible that Americans are just more likely to believe marketing hype even when it’s too good to be true. For example, Americans are less skeptical than people in Britain and Australia. And apparently Americans are more susceptible to placebo effects, so once we buy things we tend to really believe they work even when they do nothing (and via confirmation bias then ignore all facts that undermine that belief). Plus our science literacy is terrible (only 28% are literate) so it might not be obvious to a lot of Americans that salt isn’t going to make mosquitoes explode. Another explanation is that regulatory agencies in the United States (Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, for example) are overwhelmed by the cheer volume of charlatans operating their hustles and can only take the most egregious to court.

Probably a combination of all of the above.

39 thoughts on “Yeast-based mosquito control devices

  1. Ken

    The number of potential customers and profit is so high that they probably only need to have customers purchase them once to make them a nice earner for a small company. Probably many do repeatedly buy them. I’m a medical statistician and I’m amazed how patients can be quite enthusiastic about placebos, although I’m honest enough to know that I could probably be fooled.

    Reply
  2. Juan Hernandez

    Mosquito tnt is working for me. Sorry that you don’t agree with it, but I’m living proof that it does work. Just two days after putting them up, I have been able to enjoy the outdoors without getting eaten alive.

    Reply
    1. Colin Purrington Post author

      It lacks any ingredient that would be able to kill adult mosquitoes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the lack of mosquitoes you clearly are experiencing. You are a lucky person.

      Reply
    2. Brooks Seibert

      I also got these and sat outside for ten minutes and counted the mosquitoes that I could kill with a racket, during a certain time period of the day. The count slowly went down from 20 on the first day of the traps being out, to 2 by day 13. I know this isn’t a completely scientific experiment, but it does show that they are working.

      Reply
  3. Yvette

    So I’m not seeing that there’s any evidence that these products don’t work (except for the one Spartan product). Why would you try to get the EPA to ban these things with just the opinion that they’re unlikely to work? The EPA is only going to ban products that cause harm to people and after years of extensive study of the things. Is there evidence of harm to people? Why are you trying to get people to complain to the EPA about these products? Have you ever personally tried any of these products? Do you have an interest in getting these things banned, such as a career in pest control, for example?

    Reply
    1. Colin Purrington Post author

      As an example, peer-reviewed research by scientists have showed that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator does not work. And a separate publication shows that salt does not kill mosquitoes, so when companies claim that salt kills mosquitoes, that’s a false claim. It is illegal for a company to make exaggerated or false claims about a mosquito control device or pesticide. Yes, I have tried some of these products. They didn’t work at all. I have no competing interest in all this. Protecting citizens from being scammed is just something that seems worthwhile.

      Reply
      1. Josette

        I have used the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator for YEARS. You are wrong. The DO WORK and work very well. Maybe it should not make sense, or, maybe bigger more powerful companies paid for scientist to conclude that the don’t work BUT most of my friends use them and so do I. They most certainly DO WORK.

        Reply
        1. Colin Purrington Post author

          The scientists who showed that salt doesn’t kill mosquitoes — Donald A Yee, Catherine Dean, Cameron Webb, Jennifer A Henke, Gabriela Perezchica-Harvey, Gregory S White, Ary Faraji, Joshua D Macaluso, Rebecca Christofferson — all seem highly respected in their field. I would be very surprised if any of them had been secretly paid to falsify their findings. Similarly, the scientists in Florida (Vindhya Aryaprema, Edward Zeszutko, Courtney Cunningham, Emad Khater, and Rui-De Xue) who concluded that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators do not work are highly respected. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy.

          Reply
  4. Jonathan

    I bought the Tougher Than Tom’s. I commented once about how it got eaten by a chipmunk or something and knocked out of the tree the first day I put them up. Now they blocked me on Facebook. I cannot comment on their Ads and I cannot massage them on Facebook. Very odd for a company to do that I’d say.

    Reply
    1. Colin Purrington Post author

      I think the guy behind Tougher Than Tom is trying to maximize the number of sales before the authorities shut him down. So he prunes all comments except those who believe the device is killing mosquitoes, and the resulting positive comments fuels more buying by the those who want to give the product a try. Pretty typical behavior, unfortunately. Can you get your money back via the website? I’d also recommend leaving a review on the Facebook page. And, please, contact your state’s pesticide regulatory folks. Depending on which state you live in, they want to hear about companies like this. E.g., it could be the case that Tougher Than Tom hasn’t registered its pesticide. Selling an unregistered pesticide is illegal. Keep me posted, please.

      Reply
  5. damian synadinos

    Long ago, the internet was once very useful. Then it became a medium for cat gifs, and now it is now largely grotesque. However, sites and posts (and people!) like this give me fleeting hope that all is not lost. Thanks for the well-researched, informative post!

    Reply
  6. Laura

    Thank you for exposing these scammers. Wish people would use due diligence before buying products off the web!

    Reply
  7. Grace

    Thank you for this post – extremely informative and well organized. One of these devices popped up on one of my social media feeds, and as much as I hate mosquitos, I was drawn into watching the ad. But as you pointed out, I noticed there was no actual data shared about its efficacy, which led me online to do some further research and came upon your post. On a related note, if you do know of any natural mosquito controls out there that actually work, I would be interested to hear about it!

    Reply
  8. Mike

    It’s probably true that salt doesn’t kill mosquitoes, but that’s not what this recipe seems to be setup for. They are saying it’s the yeast that makes them explode. The sugar feeds the yeast and the salt is for slowing down the yeast from overeating too fast and dying quickly. The salt is a buffer to allow the yeast to grow slower and last longer. I don’t see you mention this anywhere. Only repeat that salt doesn’t kill mosquitoes.

    Reply
    1. Colin Purrington Post author

      Fruit juices and nectar are consumed by mosquitoes regularly, and both contain wild yeasts. If mosquitoes couldn’t expel gas they’d be exploding all the time and we wouldn’t have a mosquito problem at all. As far as I know, the geniuses at Spartan Mosquito came up with the lie that carbon dioxide is toxic to mosquitoes. It’s just inane. I have more details in my review of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator.

      Reply
      1. Jeff R.

        Folks that have made some bread during a pandemic will know a bit about yeast, salt, and sugar.

        Mike, yeast doesn’t make anything explode. When yeast eats sugar, it releases carbon dioxide that causes expansion in cases where there is gas restriction. In the case of this product, the released gasses supposedly attract the mosquitoes which means the gasses have already escaped.

        Even if the theory is true that some mosquitoes were eating yeast and sugar, this affect would be short lived at best. Unfortunately, even slowing the process with salt would only result in a day of yeast activity in normal summertime temperatures for North America. That’s why you can’t keep your proofing dough on the counter for two days.

        HTH.

        Reply
      2. tony

        Ive bought some.. I noticed they kill wasps and pincher bugs when they drown in the water.

        Mosquitos may drink water and then fly away but how can we tell if the mosquitos die after drinking the solution?

        I guess we don’t have proof of the negative or the positive.

        Reply
        1. Colin Purrington Post author

          Hi Tony,

          That’s what I’ve found, too: plenty of insects enter and drown in yeast-and-sugar containers, as you’d expect, but never mosquitoes. And companies carefully say that you’ll never find mosquitoes inside because the mosquitoes fly off to die elsewhere. Many Americans see the lack of mosquitoes inside as proof that the tubes work.

          The only experimental test of a company’s claim is the one I did on Spartan Mosquito’s Pro Tech. All I did was use a home security camera to confirm that mosquitoes aren’t even attracted to the tubes in the first place. I suspect all of the devices fail at the “attracts mosquitoes” phase. And, thus, all companies are using deceptive advertising claims.

          Reply
  9. Daddy-O

    Thanks for this! I was sooo close to clicking ‘buy’.

    BYW, the CO2 produced by the fermenting yeast is one of several natural attractants. I didn’t think that mosquitoes would feed from something like this but who knows?

    Hummingbirds are better at mosquito control. That and being vigilant for standing water.

    Reply
    1. Colin Purrington Post author

      Mosquitoes certainly use CO2, and yeast can definitely make CO2 … but Spartan Mosquito is just stitching those facts together in a claim that their tubes produce enough CO2 for months. It’s pure gobbledygook.

      Reply
  10. Jimbo Jones

    Thanks for posting this. I live in Florida and have a huge mosquito problem. I also have a lot of bed and butterflies so I can’t use the spray systems. I was literally about to buy the Tougher than Tom one after the barrage of social media ads but thanks to this I did not.

    Reply
  11. Alicia

    Thank you so much for your research on this! I did click on the ad via FB, because I was curious if Tom’s would actually work. My first red flag was that I couldn’t find the ingredients anywhere on their website. So I googled it and came upon your article. Very interesting info! So thank you again. You saved me some money.

    Reply
  12. Rob Marsh

    I was curious to try this, but bummer about killing the bees, as we have a guy nearby who raises them and would probably not be too happy about this.

    Reply
  13. David

    I fell for the Tougher Than Tom gimmick thinking it was some sort of breakthrough in treating mosquitos. Man, was I wrong. We have just as many if not more than usual. I opened the canisters (I bought four, but only using two at the time) and I found other insects had drowned in them but NO mosquitos (thankfully, no bees). Should have known better since all the comments in their Facebook ads are positive. That’s usually a red flag for most product reviews. Buyer Beware! As my father used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

    PS: Is there any other use for these canisters to either deter or kill mosquitoes (which is environmentally safe and won’t have a negative effect on bees)?

    Reply
    1. Katie

      Thanks for this blog and thanks for the added tips in your other article! I was sucked in by Tougher than Tom’s ads but now I just use the little containers they sent me with some water and a mosquito dunk…my thought it maybe they’ll lay eggs there instead of somewhere else and I’ll avoid future generations. Also you could add bat boxes and plant shagbark hickory trees to promote bat populations in your area! The bats make a huge difference when they migrate north to our area!

      Reply
      1. Colin Purrington Post author

        Mosquito dunks are great, and I think your use of container is perfect. But did you get your money back? You should. And report the company to your state regulatory authorities. I can provide you with contact information if you’d like.

        Reply
  14. Kate

    We use cedarcide yard spray for ticks(works AMAZING) and garlic barrier for mosquitoes. The combination works well for us. The cedarcide lasts longer than the garlic, but with both you need to reapply after heavy rains or 3-4 weeks…I’d say 3 weeks though. Cedarcide makes human and pet bug spray which I have been buying for years and mosquitoes hate it! Oh and we have 3 racket bug zappers that are great for mosquitoes.

    Reply
  15. William

    I’ve been using Spartan’s brand for three years at our river property. They absolutely do work and even our neighbors have started using them because THEY WORK.

    Reply

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