Tag Archives: carbon dioxide

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech in a tree

Does the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech attract mosquitoes?

This post evaluates the claim on the label, “mosquitoes will gather near them”. Per the company, it is the first step in how the device kills mosquitoes. I.e., the device needs to attract mosquitoes if it is going to work.

mosquitoes will gather

Evaluating the claim

I used a security camera to record activity around the cap area. Here’s a photograph of how I arranged everything:

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech with security camera

Below is a 15-second time-lapse to show that small insects such as ants were easily visible, even at night. I think they are Prenolepis imparis, which are 3-4 mm long —mosquitoes are larger and thus would be detectable even in flight.

On the day that began filming (September 2nd, 2020) I counted over a dozen mosquitoes (all Aedes albopictus) landing on my arms and legs within 30 seconds. According to the instruction sheet, the device begins to work instantly, as soon as water is added, so an hour of remote, video observation should be a sufficient amount of time to evaluate the attraction claim.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech begins working instantly

I collected continuous footage for over a week, ending observations on September 10th. The mosquitoes were still plentiful on that day.

Results

During 183 hours of footage, I couldn’t find a single mosquito on or near the device. Here are the contents. I also posted a photograph to iNaturalist.

Conclusion

Because the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech did not attract any mosquitoes, it therefore did not kill any mosquitoes. If my results are generalizable to other yards, the device is worthless as mechanism of mosquito control.

It is noteworthy, I think, that Spartan Mosquito has not made public a single video of mosquitoes gathering around a Pro Tech (or an Eradicator) when it is deployed outside. My guess is that the company has tried many times to get such footage but has not succeeded in attracting a mosquito. It will be interesting to know whether they will be compelled to disclose their efforts in a court of law. I.e., because the company has formally claimed to the EPA that “mosquitoes will gather” around the Pro Tech, the company would be in substantial legal jeopardy if that statement turned out to be false. If that’s what is going on then it seems likely that the EPA Enforcement Office might coordinate with the FTC as well.

Footage

In case anyone might be skeptical of my results, I decided to upload all 183 hours of footage onto YouTube. I had to break it into 16 segments due to size limits on YouTube.

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.

DIY mosquito trap using a plastic soda bottle

Here are instructions for building an indoor mosquito trap using a 2-liter plastic soda bottle. All you do is add some bait (honey, fruit, juice, sugar water, or some nectar-containing flowers) and place in a dark corner of the room. It works because mosquitoes seek out sugar, which they require to fuel themselves. Once inside the bottle they can’t get out.

The above instructions are a modification of a Taiwanese science-fair project that eventually went viral. The differences between the original instructions and mine are that (1) I don’t recommend adding dry active yeast, (2) I suggest sugar sources other than granulated sugar, and (3) I don’t wrap trap in black paper. The omission of yeast is because I don’t think the generation of carbon dioxide is necessary to attract mosquitoes to sugar. In fact, adding yeast likely reduces the attractiveness and causes the trap to fail faster.

The critical part of the original instructions is to deploy the device on the floor in a corner of a room. This is because mosquitoes love to hang out in corners — they are dark and relatively free of desiccating drafts.

Tips

  1. The original instructions suggest 50 g (~1/2 cup) sugar and 200 mL (~1 cup) water but the ratio probably doesn’t matter at all. Brown sugar is likely better than granulated (white) sugar because it has more impurities (some of which are volatile). A drop of rose water might make the sugar mixture more attractive.
  2. Make traps with different types of bait to see which ones are most attractive to the species that are local. Anopheles coluzzii, for example, seems to prefer papaya and banana juice over mango juice (Nignan et al. 2020). Other species might prefer oranges. Or, perhaps, durian.
  3. Replace your bait when it stops attracting mosquitoes. Perhaps every four days if you use fruit (Meza et al. 2020).
  4. If you use flowers, opt for ones that have nectar (if you know) and are light-colored. Or stick a small potted orchid inside the bottle — their blooms last for weeks.
  5. If you happen to have a plant with extrafloral nectaries, that’s a great bait that will likely last for a long time (when you’re on vacation, for example). Try a bunch of wild cherry leaves, for example.

Why it works

Mosquitoes are famous for sucking blood, but like many insects they spend most of their lives quietly ingesting sugar from flowers and rotting fruit. For example, here are some mosquitoes nectaring in the middle of the day:

So when mosquitoes find themselves trapped inside, they will zero in on whatever you have on the countertops — fruit, puddles of syrup, cut flowers, or even a dirty sponge. I don’t have photographs of mosquitoes eating fruit inside but Justin Yoshida (Thailand) does: on jackfruit, on apple slices, and on eggplant. Mosquitoes indoors are likely not especially picky about fruit type because the option is starving to death. Mosquitoes even fall into juice containers and die, apparently, as one restaurant discovered.

In case you’re skeptical that these traps can actually work, here’s a video by somebody who followed the original (science fair) directions and killed 9-10 mosquitoes in 24 hours:

Why it won’t work outside

Don’t bother using these traps outside (the recommendation of the viral versions). Mosquitoes prefer natural sources of sugar so they will likely ignore anything inside a bottle, regardless of how delectable you think the concoction is. This is the same reason why commercial versions like the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator don’t work.

The traps will also not work in rooms full of flowering plants or decomposing fruit. Similarly, if your kids spill juice and soda everywhere, the traps won’t work.

Adding toxins to the mix

If you have a house free of small kids and meddlesome pets, you can add bit of boric acid to the solution to create an attractive toxic sugar bait (ATSB) station. Then, when mosquitoes ingest the fluid they will die even if they manage to escape the trap (it can happen). In fact, once you have a toxin in the fluid you can and should just get rid of the funnel part of the trap — its presence is likely a barrier to some mosquitoes even though it’s relatively wide (~2 cm). Instead, cut a 3 cm hole in the side and keep the cap on the bottle. Note that because these devices are indoors you don’t need to worry about the boric acid (or whatever) poisoning the pollinators in your yard.

The above is nicely explained by Andy Lee Graham:

Anne Barone writes that blackberry wine pairs well with boric acid.

One perk of adding boric acid is that fermentation will likely be slowed down, extending the life of your fruit juice. Note that fermentation will occur even though you haven’t added any yeast. Fungal spores are present everywhere.

© 2021 COLIN PURRINGTON