Tag Archives: CO2

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech in tree

Does the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech attract mosquitoes?

Short answer: No.

There are currently eight devices on the market that claim to lure and kill mosquitoes with fermenting sugar solutions, but only one, the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. That registration is required because the active ingredient, boric acid, is a regulated pesticide. As a result, all claims made by Spartan Mosquito about the device must be true.

This post is about one those claims, that mosquitoes will gather around the device in large numbers. The claim is made on the device’s label (below), on the instruction sheet (below), on the company’s website, and in the EPA registration document, where it’s mentioned five times.

It is, of course, a claim that is central to how the device is supposed to work: the mosquitoes in a yard are somehow drawn to the contents of the tubes, they squeeze through the holes in the cap, crawl down to the fluid, ingest some fluid, then crawl back out of the tubes. They die later from the effects of boric acid. It’s an elaborate sequence of events.

What causes the mosquitoes to gather?

Unfortunately, nowhere does Spartan Mosquito explain exactly why the Pro Tech would cause mosquitoes to gather. But the company says the device is the “next generation” of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, and for that device the company claims mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide produced by sugar and yeast inside the tube. Although sugar and yeast are not specifically listed as ingredients for the Pro Tech, the contents appear to be sugar and yeast.

Evaluating the claim

The easiest way to determine whether mosquitoes gather around the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech is to just look. I’ve deployed three devices (one with label removed) in my yard this summer and, to date, I have not seen any mosquitoes near the devices. There are also no mosquitoes inside the devices. For the record, I know what mosquitoes look like and have thousands in my yard.

The above technique has two problems, however. The first is that one has to be close to the devices to observe mosquitoes, and it’s theoretically possible that the instant a human approaches, the mosquitoes abandon the device and seek out the human, instead. I don’t actually think this is a real concern because I can recognize a mosquito from quite far away, plus I can use binoculars so that the distance is even greater. The second problem is that people might not believe me when I say I observed zero mosquitoes gathered around the tubes — people are just far more inclined to believe the label’s claim.

To address both of these concerns, I decided to use a security camera to record the area around a Pro Tech. Then I could examine the footage and make it publicly available to those who might be skeptical. 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 I set it up (September 2nd, 2020) I counted over a dozen mosquitoes (all Aedes albopictus) 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

To satisfy potential critics, however, I collected footage for over a week, ending observations on September 10th. The mosquitoes were still plentiful on the day I published this post (September 12th), so there were plenty of mosquitoes in my yard for a fair test.

Results

During 183 hours of footage, I couldn’t find a single mosquito on or near the device.

It’s theoretically possible that a mosquito landed on the far side of the tube (which I couldn’t view) and I missed it, but I think I can safely conclude that large numbers of mosquitoes did not “gather”, as per the labelling claim. I’ve also continued to observe the footage beyond the 183 hours, but it seemed like a waste of time to continue. The device was simply not attracting mosquitoes. There’s only so much boredom I can endure.

Discussion

If the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech does not attract mosquitoes, at all, I’m left confused. Is it possible the EPA didn’t require Spartan Mosquito to provide experimental proof for this label claim? I see three explanations.

First, I’m wondering whether the EPA viewed the claim as “advisory” language:

“Advisory statements are intended to be informational. They provide information to the product user on such topics as product characteristics and how to reduce risk and maximize efficacy while using the product. Such statements are acceptable as long as they do not conflict with mandatory statements, and are not false or misleading, or otherwise violate statutory or regulatory provisions.” [bolding added]

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-labels/label-review-training-module-1-label-basics-page-26

I.e., maybe the EPA reviewer deemed the “mosquitoes will gather” statement as somehow separate from the core efficacy claim (“kills mosquitoes”) and thus didn’t request proof. Regardless, the last part of the above passage still requires that such advisory statements are not false or misleading.

Second, perhaps the “mosquitoes will gather” claim is based on data from a cage experiment conducted inside a laboratory? I.e., if large numbers of mosquitoes are trapped in a container with a Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, maybe they do gather around the device simply because there’s nothing else for mosquitoes to land on. If that’s the case, however, it would seem highly misleading to imply (on all the labelling) to consumers that mosquitoes will gather around the tubes when they are deployed outside. 100% of the marketing suggests that the device attracts mosquitoes in yards.

Third, if the data supplied to the EPA was, in fact, from an outdoor experiment, maybe it’s just untrustworthy. I.e., from an experiment that didn’t have controls or that lacked meaningful replication. Or cherry-picked from multiple experiments where all but one showed no effect. There are lots of way to conduct a bad experiment and to pitch the results as somehow fantastic. I’ve heard this was (and is) an issue for the Eradicator.

EXTRA: What about the “kills mosquitoes” claim?

To gain approval for its label claim, Spartan Mosquito must have supplied some sort of data to the EPA that confirmed the device could kill mosquitoes. But if the device doesn’t attract mosquitoes present in a yard, how could it possibly kill them?? I’m speculating here, but if Spartan Mosquito did, indeed, test the devices inside cages, they might get a positive finding. That’s because the devices contain an aqueous solution of boric acid (approximate 0.17%, I think), and thus one would expect some boric acid to be present in the fumes that escape through the holes in the cap. Those fumes could conceivably poison the mosquitoes trapped in the cage. The lethality of the fumes might be extremely low, but I’d wager the effect would be measurable when compared to a control cage that lacked those toxic fumes.

Does boric acid evaporate? Yes, the main source of boron in the atmosphere is due to evaporation of boric acid from oceans (Park and Schlesinger 2002). More generally, evaporation of acids from aqueous solutions can even be used to retard bacterial and fungal growth of meat.

It would be interesting know what Spartan Mosquito (or the researcher it hired) used as the experimental control treatment. One way to bias the experiments in favor of finding an effect is to simply use empty or water-only tubes as controls. This is because fermentation itself causes acids to form, and those acids would be expected to enter the vapor phase and permeate the experimental cages. That’s in addition to the ethanol that enters the vapor phase, of course. I.e., mosquitoes trapped with a tube of fermenting sugar might have low survivorship because they were bathed in vapors that are mildly deleterious. Again, such an effect would have nothing to do with mosquitoes squeezing through the holes and ingesting poison. And, of course, the “vapors killing the mosquitoes” effect wouldn’t work at all when tubes are deployed in a yard.

If Spartan Mosquito did, in fact, test the device in cages, it would seem best to constrain its claims to “causes mosquitoes in cages to gather” and “kills mosquitoes in cages”. Then if consumers had a problem a mosquito outbreak in their cages, perhaps the Pro Tech would be an attractive option.

EPA guidelines

I was curious so I dug around in the guidelines to see what type of experiments need to be done to establish efficacy. Here’s a screenshot from, “Product Performance Test Guidelines OPPTS 810.3000 — General Considerations for Efficacy of Invertebrate Control Agents“, that seems relevant:

The wording in the red-boxed sections suggests that the EPA allows laboratory experiments in place of experiments under actual conditions (outside). I couldn’t find any directive from the EPA that required a company to clarify the conditions under which the efficacy data were collected.

Again, I don’t have any information on what type of experiment Spartan Mosquito conducted. The above is just to indicate that it may be possible that they didn’t conduct the test outdoors.

What does Spartan Mosquito say?

In general, when consumers ask the company on Facebook how the device works, the company directs them to this webpage or this Facebook video. Neither has information on how the device works or how well it works. The company simply deletes any question it does not want to answer, and often blocks skeptical users who ask probing questions. If you doubt me, try asking a scientific question on the company’s Facebook page. For example, “What causes mosquitoes to gather around the tubes?” Or try, “Do you have any videos of mosquitoes gathering around the tubes when device is deployed in a yard?” I’d also like to see them answer, “Under what conditions was the Pro Tech tested?”

The only details the company provides about efficacy is that device kills 95% of mosquitoes.

Which is hard to believe.

Footage

Below is the video, separated into 16 segments due to size limits on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/X9P4VNVw9HQ
https://youtu.be/_w1xKjR6dnM

Yeast-based mosquito control devices

If you’re even remotely interested in killing mosquitoes, you’ve probably seen ads for plastic tubes that are filled with water, sugar, and yeast. The marketing pitch is that the thousands of mosquitoes lurking in your yard will be drawn to the devices by carbon dioxide (emitted by yeast when it consumes sugar), then will all enter the device through tiny holes at the top, ingest some of the fluid inside (because mosquitoes forage for sweet liquids like nectar), squeeze back out of the tube through the same holes, and then die due to the effects of a chemical (table salt, boric acid, garlic oil, etc.) dissolved in the fluid. According to marketing claims, these tubes will completely rid your yard of mosquitoes for months.

Below are details on the eight devices currently marketed in the United States.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

First sold in 2016 as the Spartan Mosquito Bomb, the company claims these tubes will eradicate mosquito populations for up to 90 days. Active ingredient is table salt. Company is based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was founded by Jeremy Hirsch (previously worked at restaurant/GTMO) and Chris Bonner (works at his father’s chemical testing company). It can be purchased on Amazon and in many rural feed and hardware stores across the country.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Sock-It Skeeter

Produced by the same company (AC2T, Inc.) that makes the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Likely also contains sodium chloride. Here is a commercial about the device. I’m not sure whether this device is still sold.

Sock-It Skeeter

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Company lists table salt and sodium lauryl sulfate as active ingredients. Like the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator it promises to eradicate mosquitoes for 90 days but 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 (graduate of Ambassador Bible College?). Available from Amazon and from company website. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Mosquito XT

Company lists table salt as the active ingredient. Company is based in Paragould, Arkansas, and owned by Kevin King, an insurance broker. Available only from company website. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Mosquito XT

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

This device is the same as the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator except that boric acid replaces table salt as the listed active ingredient. Company claims it kills 95% of mosquitoes. It is sold in hardware/feed stores in most states, plus can be purchased directly from the company. Company plans to market it in Africa soon.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Skeeter Eater

Lists table salt as the active ingredient and claims to eradicate mosquitoes for 90 days. Box says purchases help support conservation of marine turtles. Distributed by Copia Products based in Memphis Tennessee, and owned by Wade Whitely; he seems to specialize in baby products. Sold at Walmart and Ace Hardware in Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. Manufactured in Columbia. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Skeeter Eater — The Mosquito Eradicator

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Label lists garlic oil as the active ingredient. Described 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. Available from company’s website and on Amazon. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Mosquito Dynamiter

Owner claims the device will eradicate up to 95% of mosquitoes in 15 days for up to 90 days. Says that mosquitoes “literally explode”. It appears to be a black version of its Wasp & Bee Sugar Trap. Made by Vic West Brands based in Austin, Texas, and owned by Nick Olynyk, an expert on junior hockey. It is not owned by Grandpa Gus, who is an actor in Austin coached to be rural and trustworthy. Sold online through website and Amazon. And apparently in stores, too. It doesn’t seem to be registered in any of states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Grandpa Gus's Mosquito Dynamiter

Do they work?

As far as I know, there’s no independent evidence that any of the devices reduce mosquito populations in yards. The only publication on the topic (Aryaprema et al. 2020) concluded that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator had no effect.

I’m aware of several other experiments that are not yet published and I’ll update this page when they are.

Why are they so popular?

My current explanation for the success of these devices is that companies can still thrive if only 5% of buyers are satisfied and become regular customers — the profit margin on a tube of sugar is just so high. But why would anyone, let alone 5%, think they actually work? My hypothesis is that if 5% or so of consumers have low mosquito numbers for some reason, most people will assume it’s because the device did it. E.g., they will not credit the insecticide the town has been spraying all summer, or fail to remember that a drought has eliminated stagnant water. Once a person is convinced that the tubes work, it is likely extremely hard for them to admit they were wrong.

But why don’t the remaining 95% complain? Some do, but this is where customer service comes in. If companies deal with dissatisfied buyers by sending them brand new tubes (“we want to make things right”, “maybe you got a faulty tube”, “maybe your water was bad”, etc.), a good portion of people will be won over by that outreach even if the tubes continue to do absolutely nothing. People who remain underwhelmed by the efficacy might just give up and write off the wasted money as a valuable learning experience.

More generally, it’s clear that most people are not terribly familiar with mosquito biology and what it takes to kill them. From reading several thousand Facebook comments about these devices, it’s fairly clear that people are really susceptible to anything that sounds technical, and that’s probably why advertising for these devices is filled with sciency jargon. The success of these devices seems especially high among people who use Facebook a lot. I’m not sure what that means.

Of course, if they worked as advertised they would save a million lives per year and we could all enjoy our yards without a single mosquito bite. And the CDC, WHO, and the American Mosquito Control Association would recommend them (they do not). The reality, sadly, is that there are no great ways to eliminate mosquitoes.

Are these devices regulated?

Marketers are not supposed to make false or misleading claims about pesticidal devices but I gather such rules are loosely enforced.

Contact

If you know of any devices I should add to the above list, please contact me. I’m especially interested in devices that might be marketed outside the United States.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Here’s an early look at the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, the newest device made by the makers of the wildly popular Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, which I reviewed in 2019.

What is the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech?

Aside from differences in label design, the Pro Tech looks just like the Eradicator — a plastic tube fitted with a cap that has several ~11/64″ holes and a hook for hanging. And it’s filled with essentially the same ingredients (water, sugar, yeast). The big difference appears to be that the active ingredient is now boric acid instead of sodium chloride.

Per the labelling, the major differences are that the Pro Tech (1) works for 30 days instead of 90 and (2) “kills mosquitoes” instead of killing 95% of them.

The name, “Pro Tech”, is presumably to signify to consumers that the device is “professional technology”. This name is line with company’s description of the Pro Tech as “next-generation” and “most advanced“.

How does the Pro Tech kill mosquitoes?

The company asserts the following occur:

  1. mosquitoes are attracted to the tubes
  2. mosquitoes land on the tubes
  3. mosquitoes crawl around until they find the 11/64″ holes in the cap
  4. mosquitoes squeeze though the holes
  5. mosquitoes walk down sides of tube toward liquid
  6. mosquitoes ingest some of the liquid
  7. mosquitoes walk back up sides of tube
  8. mosquitoes find holes
  9. mosquitoes squeeze through holes
  10. mosquitoes fly away
  11. mosquitoes die from boric acid poisoning

A typical yard might have thousands of mosquitoes, so at any one time there might be a cloud of mosquitoes gathered around the devices, at least according to the company’s advertising. I have not been able to find a photograph that shows a cloud of mosquitoes around a Pro Tech.

Do Pro Techs kill mosquitoes?

The more important question is, “Does the Pro Tech kill mosquitoes in a yard?” The rephrasing of the question is important because a loophole in the EPA guidelines allows a company to claim a device kills an outdoor pest even if the efficacy experiment was done indoors. I’m not sure whether this is the case with the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, but it’s a concern. Laboratory experiments of attractive toxic sugar bait (ATSB) devices could easily overestimate actual efficacy for several reasons.

One worry is that boric acid can enter the vapor state. This means that mosquitoes trapped inside net cages with Pro Techs would be expected to die at a faster rate simply because boric acid is present in the air inside the cage, not because any of the mosquitoes actually squeezed through holes in the caps and ingested the liquid. Another huge problem is that when ATSB devices are tested inside cages, mosquitoes have no choice but to seek out the sugar inside the devices. So one might see mosquitoes entering the small holes of a Pro Tech inside cages even though mosquitoes in the real world would rarely do so. Under no circumstances would I recommend the EPA accept data from laboratory tests of ATSBs.

I’m not aware of any third-party evaluations of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, but given that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator does not work, it seems unlikely that the Pro Tech would work. I’ll update this page when peer-reviewed data are published.

Disclosures

Spartan Mosquito is suing me.