Tag Archives: data

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech review

This post is a review of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, a tube containing sugar, yeast, and boric acid that you fill with warm water and then hang in your yard from trees. The manufacturer says it “kills mosquitoes that may carry West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Dengue Fever, St. Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, and Eastern equine encephalitis for up to 30 days”. Each box of two tubes costs approximately $25. It is different from the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, which lists salt as the active ingredient.

How the device is supposed to kill mosquitoes

Once you add water, directions say to hang tubes at a density of four per acre around the perimeter of your property, away from where people gather. The cap has a series of small holes (approximately 5/32″) that are supposed to accommodate mosquitoes.

Below is the sequence of events that are supposed to happen.

  1. mosquitoes are attracted to the tubes
  2. mosquitoes land on the tubes
  3. mosquitoes crawl around until they find the 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 (which contains boric acid)
  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 ingested in step 6

Does it work?

No. I tested four in my yard in Pennsylvania and there was no noticeable drop in the numbers of mosquitoes biting me. I also looked inside all of the tubes and didn’t see a single mosquito. And I never observed a single mosquito near any of the tubes, despite a phrase on the package that says, “mosquitoes will gather” around them.

In addition to the above observations I used a home security camera to spy on one tube continuously for over a week, to see whether mosquitoes might be showing up when I’m not watching (e.g., at night). Here are the details of what I did (photographs of setup are below). The camera didn’t record the presence of a single mosquito. I concluded that the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech is not capable of killing mosquitoes outdoors because mosquitoes are not even attracted to it. I.e., it fails at step 1, above.

Why doesn’t the Pro Tech attract mosquitoes?

Based on what the inventors have said publicly, the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast fools the mosquitoes into believing there’s an animal inside the tube.

I think this scenario is implausible. Although it is certainly true that mosquitoes use carbon dioxide to find hosts, I doubt the yeast is making enough carbon dioxide to attract mosquitos. And certainly not for an entire month. Indeed, I find the company’s explanation so implausible I cannot bring myself to think they believe it themselves.

How did the Pro Tech get an EPA registration?

Because the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech has an EPA registration number (93813-1), the company must have submitted data showing the device can kill mosquitoes. But if the device doesn’t attract mosquitoes, how is this possible?

One explanation might be that Spartan Mosquito supplied data from experiments using caged mosquitoes. I learned about this option after asking the EPA whether Spartan Mosquito’s data were truly from outdoor experiments — the EPA answered by referring me to a web page that contained this line: “When appropriate, laboratory colony or caged wild mosquitoes can be used.” I also noticed that Spartan Mosquito stated on its Facebook page that field trial (outdoor) data are not required to secure an EPA registration:

Therefore, it seems likely that the EPA granted a registration on cage data only. In this scenario, a known number of mosquitoes would be released inside a sealed container that had a Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, and their survival over time would be compared to that inside a control cage.

There are numerous problems with testing attractive toxic sugar baits (ATSBs) in cages. The most obvious is that there are no alternative sugar or water sources for mosquitoes and thus the test doesn’t measure, at all, how attractive the device might be in the real world (consumers’ yards).

Another major problem is that Spartan Mosquito sets up experiments in way that biases the outcomes. This can be illustrated by evaluating an experiment involving the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator they posted about on Facebook:

On the bottom left of the video there’s a view of the “Product” treatment — this tube is presumably filled with sugar, yeast, water, and salt (the listed active ingredient). The tube on the right shows the “Control” treatment, presumably filled with only sugar, yeast, and water (but no salt). However, the Eradicator in the “Control” cage doesn’t have a cap. The absence of a cap means that mosquitoes in search of water and sugar can easily get both simply by crawling into the tube. I.e., the experiment was designed in a way to easily ensure that mosquitoes in the “Control” tank lived longer than those in the “Product” tank.

The video also reveals another strategy of Spartan Mosquito, that of implying that all 378 mosquitoes that died in the “Product” cage died because they entered the tube, ingested some fluid, then died. You can see part of this pile of dead mosquitoes at the bottom of the screen grab below (left).

There’s zero evidence in the video that any of those mosquitoes ingested the fluid inside the tube. All that’s presented in the video is a compilation of 3 or 4 clips showing individual mosquitoes entering or exiting the tubes. The screen grab below shows one of these instances along with the suggestive phrase, “Mosquitoes enter Spartan Mosquito Eradicators to feed on the solution inside.”

What’s important to notice here is that the company did not include a compilation of hundreds of clips showing mosquitoes going into the tube. If Spartan Mosquito had these clips I’m positive they would have used them. Plus the video doesn’t show a single mosquito exiting with a distended abdomen, which would easily show that a mosquito had ingested fluid. My conclusion is that all the mosquitoes piled up on the bottom of the “Product” cage died from some other cause. The most likely explanation is simple dehyradation. Regardless, it certainly had nothing to do with mosquitoes going inside and drinking saltwater, because scientists have showed that the saltwater in Spartan Mosquito Eradicators is not lethal to mosquitoes.

The experiment I’ve critiqued above concerns a “minimum risk” pesticide, of course, and I acknowledge that Spartan Mosquito may not have needed to be particularly careful in how it set up and analyzed experiments (many states don’t even require proof that such devices work). However, it seems possible that the company adopted some of the same strategies when designing experiments for the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech. And it seems possible the company might represent the outcomes to the EPA in the same way, persuading regulators that the deaths in the “Product” treatment were from mosquitoes going inside the tubes and then drinking the toxic fluid, when in reality there’s no evidence of this happening.

It’s probably worth mentioning that Spartan Mosquito is being sued for false advertising and that over a dozen states (CA, CT, ID, IN, KS, MD, ME, MT, NE, NM, NV, NY, OK, PA, SD, UT, VA, WA, DC, and PR) have prohibited sales of the Eradicator. And California has denied a registration to the Pro Tech. The company is also being sued for breach of contract, fraud, and trademark infringement by several other companies.

The backstory

Given all of the above, I was not surprised to eventually discover that the EPA registration decision was not just based on efficacy data. Instead, Spartan Mosquito apparently convinced the EPA that the device should be fast-tracked. I first learned of this from a radio segment featuring Jeremy Hirsch (the inventor, founder, and current chairman of the board). During the interview the host said, “Hirsch is attempting to get an early green-light because mosquitoes are so dangerous”.

How, exactly, does one persuade the EPA that a pesticide should be rushed through the registration process? It turns out that Spartan Mosquito hired a lobbying firm (Gunster Strategies Worldwide) to get this done. Below is a document (now deleted) that I found on Gunster Strategies’ website. The scheme is spelled out in astonishing detail:

Gunster Strategies' plan to push through Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech registration process at the Environmental Protection Agency

In regard to the op-eds mentioned in the document, it appears that an influential health official in Togo (Dr Tinah) was one of the writers, though it came in the form of a press release. It would be interesting to know who actually wrote that press release and also whether Dr Tinah was paid in some way.

I’m still trying to figure out who the firm payed to write letters to EPA officials. I would also like to know which administrators at the EPA were targeted.

Although not mentioned in the strategy document, Spartan Mosquito and one of its founders (Jeremy Hirsch) gave approximately $10,000 to the Cindy Hyde-Smith, the senator who chairs the committee with EPA oversight. I don’t think they donated to any other senator. It would be interesting to know whether Senator Hyde-Smith was one of the persons who called or wrote EPA officials about the Pro Tech.

I’m not sure how it fits into categories listed above, but it’s possible that two companies (see below) were created for the sole purpose of influencing the Pro Tech’s registration process at the EPA. Both companies claimed to be non-profits that highlighted their goal of helping people in dire need. But they were both singularly interested in promoting Spartan Mosquito. So my guess is they were involved somehow in the scheme.

1. Innovative Mosquito Control, Inc

Innovative Mosquito Control (INMOCO) purports to be a public benefit corporation devoted to fighting malaria in Africa. As part of this effort it claims to have partnered with Spartan Mosquito to promote/supply the company’s tubes to the region. Its CEO and President is Omar Arouna (2nd from left in photograph below), a lobbyist based in D.C. who typically charges $1,500/hr for consulting and social media campaigns. There’s no further information on who works at the company or whether it even has employees. Contributing to the lack of information is that fact that the business was set up in Delaware, a state popular among companies that want to keep the true owner secret. And the company’s website was housed on a server in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also famous for companies that want to obscure their operations. It all seems needlessly secretive for a company that is ostensibly fighting malaria. But here’s the interesting part: Mr Arouna has worked with Gunster Strategies on several occasions. And as a minor fact, both INMOCO and Gunster Strategies use Wix for websites. It seems likely that they collaborated here, too.

Dr. Atcha-Oubou Tinah, MD-MPH (Coordinator of the Togolese National Malaria Control Program), Omar Arouna (President and CEO Innovative Mosquito Control Incorporated, Dr Moustafa Mijiyawa (Togolese Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, Chair of the Africa CDC Governing Board), & Jeremy Hirsch (Founder and Chairman of the Board, Spartan Mosquito).

What’s also interesting is that soon after the Pro Tech got its registration from the EPA, INMOCO’s website was taken down and its Facebook page (which has zero followers) has had no further posts. And Mr Arouna’s LinkedIn profile is devoid of any mention of this endeavor. It’s as if the whole operation was created just to give the illusion that Spartan Mosquito was going to rid the world of malaria, a fact that could be used to manipulate reviewers at the EPA.

2. West Nile Education, Eradication & Prevention

WEEP & Recover, a Mississippi non-profit, was also set up two days before the EPA’s consideration of the Pro Tech. It’s run by James Hendry, probably most famous for his other non-profit, Mississippi for Family Values. The WEEP & Recover website and Facebook page are full of slick graphics and videos, most of which feature Spartan Mosquito and, notably, never mention any other mosquito-control company.

Functionally, WEEP & Recover is an advertising arm of Spartan Mosquito. The videos, graphics, and website design are all provided by the branding firm, Unify by Bread. Unify by Bread also produced a heartwarming video about hardware store staff that used Spartan Mosquito products as backdrops. My guess is that all of this was funded by Spartan Mosquito, perhaps channeled through Gunster Strategies.

In summary, it appears the EPA was played.

Suggestions

The EPA says it will not reevaluate the Pro Tech’s registration until 2035, but state lead agencies (SLAs) retain the legal right to require a pesticide company to make label changes to comply with individual state laws, as long as those recommendations are already covered under FIFRA. And any state can require a company to provide additional experimental data for any reason. Regulators can also just share their concerns with the staff at the EPA who are in charge of enforcement. Given these avenues, below are my suggestions for how states might help the average consumer better understand the Pro Tech’s abilities to kill mosquitoes:

  1. Require Spartan Mosquito to clarify on its website and packaging that the device has been shown to kill mosquitoes in cages only. The current packaging, instruction manuals, and website use words such as “outdoors”, “yard”, “backyard”, and “property” to imply to consumers that the device kills mosquitoes outside, which as far as I know the company has not demonstrated. If asking for this change outright seems unreasonable, a state regulatory agency could, I think, request that Spartan Mosquito supply the experimental data that supports its implied claim about outdoor efficacy. States can ask Spartan Mosquito for details on the experimental design, too — it should have a control, be replicated, be double-blinded, and be done by a qualified person who is not employed by or otherwise affiliated with the company (this is the standard that many states have for “minimum risk” pesticides, so I think it’s reasonable for one that claims to protect human health).
  2. Require Spartan Mosquito to omit or change the phrase, “mosquitoes will gather around the tubes”, that is currently printed on the package label in several locations. As currently worded it is an efficacy claim. Again, states could request that Spartan Mosquito supply the supporting data that show mosquitoes gather around the devices when they are placed in yards. As per above, the experiment should be well described and not conducted by the company itself, or by board members of the company, who still have a financial stake in the outcomes. In lieu of quantitative data from controlled, replicated, double-blinded experiments, states might instead ask for a photograph showing mosquitoes gathered around a Pro Tech that is deployed outdoors. If the claim is true the data and/or photograph should be easy to supply.
  3. Require Spartan Mosquito to add wording to packaging and website to clarify that the Pro Tech will not completely eliminate mosquitoes. The EPA has already directed the company to include such wording. The addition seems needed because its previous product, the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, is advertised to kill up to 95% of mosquitoes. Consumers who have used Spartan Mosquito Eradicators for years might thus assume that the Pro Tech has the same level of efficacy, if not higher. Company has not yet made the change.
  4. Require company to clarify what the sugar and yeast are for. If they are active in some way (e.g., to attract mosquitoes to the tube) they should be listed as active ingredients. Also, the yeast will consume the sugar and produce ethanol and carbon dioxide, both of which can be lethal to mosquitoes. If sugar and yeast are truly inert then require company to omit them and use just water.
  5. Require company to remove or change the testimonials on its website. Currently the company features nine testimonials from people discussing the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, a different pesticide product. I.e., given the date when these testimonials were posted on the company’s Facebook page, the people would not yet have had the opportunity to test the Pro Tech for the season. Company should be encouraged to use testimonials in which the consumer has either specified “Pro Tech” or mentions boric acid in some way.
  6. Require company to remove the phrases, “attractive toxic sugar bait“, and, “slow release device“, from its website. The “attractive toxic sugar bait” implies outdoor efficacy (i.e., tube will successfully compete with natural sources of sugar to attract mosquitoes) and the “slow release” suggests that the boric acid gradually activates over a month (untrue, as far as I know). Company regularly uses these phrases in response to customer queries on its Facebook page. Regardless of company’s intent, neither phrase is mentioned in the EPA registration and are therefore off-label claims.
  7. Require Spartan Mosquito to change the product name. EPA guidelines expressly prohibit the use of any brand name that implies heightened efficacy. The phrase “Pro Tech” is shorthand for “professional technology” and thus does not comply with FIFRA.
  8. Prohibit company from using the device’s alternate brand name, “Spartan Mosquito Eradicator Pro Tech”. The reasoning behind this suggestion is that the EPA specifically prohibits the use of the word “Eradicator” in brand names.

The challenge, of course, is to get states interested in the above, and I’m sensing that some are not aware that states are allowed to (and should) give attention to how EPA-registered pesticides are marketed. I’m hoping that once the class-action suit against Spartan Mosquito starts to get national coverage, pesticide-registration staff will find it easier to embrace enforcement actions. Indeed, most states still allow sales of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator even though it doesn’t contain an ingredient that kills mosquitoes.

Another likely source of hesitation is the presence of a senator from Mississippi, Cindy Hyde-Smith, on several committees with jurisdiction over the EPA. (Spartan Mosquito has given her money.) I.e., few people want to go after a prominent Mississippi pesticide company right now. This probably also explains why the American Mosquito Control Association (currently lobbying for money, legislation) has remained publicly silent on Spartan Mosquito’s tubes despite extensive internal communications about the device.

Contact

If you have information on the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech that I’ve missed, send me a message or leave a comment on this post.

Bag of water hanging from ceiling

15 mosquito-control strategies and devices that don’t work

Health officials love to remind people to use DEET and other CDC-approved repellents, but they tend to shy away from telling the public what doesn’t work. As a result, millions of people adopt ineffective techniques and gimmicky devices. These people are not only subjecting themselves to annoying mosquito bites, they are increasing the likelihood that family members will contract West Nile virus disease, Zika virus disease, eastern equine encephalitis, and other mosquito-borne diseases. So I thought I’d make a list of the top myths and scams just in case skeptical people are Googling.

1. Mosquito-repelling plants

Despite the claims of thousands of posts on Facebook and Pinterest, there are no plants that, when planted around your yard, repel mosquitoes. And, just to be clear, the plant marketed as “mosquito plant” does not repel mosquitoes. I know this is deeply upsetting news to many plant fans. I’m just the messenger.

2. Ultrasonic devices and apps

None of these have been found to work (details). It’s too bad. It would be really cool if they did. The FTC has taken some companies to court. There is, however, a device called The Mosquito that is effective at repelling teenagers.

3. Bags of water suspended from ceiling

This belief is common in Mexico, Central America, Spain, and certain pockets in the U.S. south. It’s a variation of the equally-ineffective tradition of hanging bags of water to repel house flies. Some people insist that you have to add coins (and just the right number).

4. Listerine

Nope — even when mixed with other ingredients like beer and epsom salts, spraying Listerine around your yard won’t repel mosquitoes. Just another internet rumor started by somebody with too much free time.

5. Citronella candles

Citronella candles only seem to work if you surround yourself with a lot of them, ideally in a protected area so that wind doesn’t dissipate the smoke. Similarly, Tiki torches that burn citronella-laced oil are ineffective. They smell great, though. The pleasant smell most likely contributes to the strong placebo effect. People absolutely believe they work even though they do not.

6. Bounce dryer sheets

Per one study fungus gnats (which don’t bite) were mildly repelled by dryer sheets. I’d wager these sheets might actually be attractive to mosquitoes (some species home in on perfumes).

7. Wrist bands with natural oils

At best, wrist bands will reduce the number of mosquito bites on your wrist simply because they can’t bite through the plastic. But they will not emit enough volatile compounds to shield the rest of you. NB: currently there are no wristbands that contain DEET or other CDC-approved repellent. Details.

8. Stickers laced with natural oils

Stickers only prevent mosquitoes from biting the flesh directly underneath the sticker. You’d need an awful lot of stickers for full protection. If you can rock that look, I say go for it. Note, same conclusion for the stickers that claim to infuse your bloodstream with B1.

9. Garlic

Eating garlic does not deter mosquitoes. Just deters other people.

10. Vitamin B1, B6, or B12 pills or patches

Nope, nope, and nope. Details. More details.

11. Mozi-Q pills

Just another scam. Details.

12. Bug Zappers

These devices are adored by people because they make a satisfying crackle when an insect meets its end. Indeed, people who own these seem to delight in the attention these things get when friends come over in the evening. But if you dump all the carcasses on a table and sort them (good family fun), you’ll find that only a very small fraction of the victims will be mosquitoes. In one study, 0.22% were mosquitoes. Mostly you’ve just electrocuted thousands of small, defenseless moths and night-active beetles. That’s a lot of bad karma. More details.

13. Dynatraps

These don’t appear to work. I’ve tried two and can confirm. If you’re still on the fence read some of the many 1-star reviews on Amazon.

14. Tubes of yeast and sugar

Contraptions filled with yeast and sugar are really good at attracting and killing fruit flies, ants, and wasps. They will not control your mosquitoes.

15. Bats and birds

Sadly, it’s a myth that constructing a bat or bird hotel in your backyard will eliminate your mosquito problem. Bats and birds will certainly eat mosquitoes under some circumstances (e.g., when they are caged with nothing else) but under natural conditions they prefer to eat larger insects. You should still construct bird and bat houses, though. Details.

More information

If you have questions, email me.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator review

Spartan Mosquito Eradicators are selling like hotcakes around the country so I bought two and thought I’d share some thoughts. The devices are just black tubes filled with water, sucrose, salt, and yeast that you hang in your yard. Per the company, mosquitoes are lured to the devices by the CO2, volatiles, and heat produced by the yeast, crawl inside (through holes in the cap), drink the liquid, crawl back out, then eventually die when their guts rupture (because of the salt and CO2). The claim, therefore, is that the thousands (or tens of thousands) of mosquitoes in a typical back yard are all drawn to the device, drink the fluid, fly out, then die.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Below are two videos in which people explain how Spartan Mosquito Eradicators kill mosquitoes. The first person is a reviewer (Weekend Handy Woman), the second is Jeremy Hirsch, the inventor and co-owner of Spartan Mosquito.

Did they work?

No. I failed to notice any drop in the numbers of mosquitoes in my yard. I also went near the devices regularly to see whether I would see the promised cloud of mosquitoes that are supposed to be attracted, but I never noticed a single mosquito on or even near them. I checked the devices several hundred times during the summer.

My Spartan Mosquito Eradicators did kill a lot of insects, though (see pics). In fact, after several weeks the liquid inside became a bubbling, stinking, charnel pit. I even found fly larvae writhing around inside (video below) — the devices were producing flies for my yard (spotted-wing Drosophila, if you’re curious). When I poured the goo out and sorted through all the carcasses there wasn’t a single mosquito in the mix. And, yes, I know how to identify mosquitoes.

Why didn’t they work?

In my opinion, there are four reasons why the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is unlikely to kill a single mosquito unless it falls from the tree and lands on one.

First, the device clearly doesn’t attract mosquitoes. One reason is likely that they don’t produce sufficient amounts of CO2 to mimic what a bird or mammal produces. It turns out that you’d need a lot more sugar to achieve that level of CO2 production (Saitoh et al. 2004, Smallegange et al. 2010, Obenauer et al. 2013, and Jerry et al. 2017). And even if the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator had a 1-gallon reservoir (instead of a ~1 1/2 cups), the fermentation process would likely be complete after 48 hours or so, leaving the device useless for the remaining 88 days (its advertised life is 90 days). Here’s a visual representation of the fail:

Hypothetical graph showing carbon dioxide emissions from a Spartan Mosquito Eradicator.

Another reason it’s probably unattractive is that the tube smells like rotting insects after a week, not a nice piece of fruit or flower crammed with nectar. Mosquitoes are not attracted to rotting insects.

It’s noteworthy that Spartan Mosquito’s website doesn’t show a single photograph of a mosquito arriving at (or resting on) one of its devices when set up in a yard. And, similarly, the company doesn’t have a single video of a deployed Spartan Mosquito Eradicator with a swarm of mosquitoes trying to get in. The lack of photographs and video is an indicator, to me, that the owners know fully well the device is a scam.

Second, the fermentation reactions inside the tube are not going to generate enough heat to make the device a thermal target for mosquitoes. Again, even if there was a slight temperature spike on the first day (when there is plenty of sugar), that increase will not last for three months. And, again, nowhere on the company’s website is there any documentation of a temperature increase. The company makes the claim merely to persuade undiscerning consumers.

Third, there’s nothing inside the device that would kill a mosquito even if it went inside and drank the fluid. Here’s what the company says happens:

“When a mosquito ingests the Sodium Chloride (salt), its crystalline structure ‘cuts’ their stomach, causing it to rupture. The fermentation process also continues after mosquitoes ingest the mixture, and CO2 production in the mosquito also causes the stomach to rupture.”

There is no scientific literature that supports either of these things happening. Salt, for example, is not even in a crystalline form when dissolved, so there are no sharp crystals at all. And salt solutions by themselves are not toxic to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also have salt-sensitive taste receptors just like we do, so there’s zero chance they would ingest something that’s too salty.

And mosquitoes have been drinking fermenting liquids (nectar and rotting fruit) for tens of millions of years without exploding from the carbon dioxide produced by yeasts. Mosquitoes always have yeast in their guts. The owners just made up the “mosquitoes can’t vent CO2” phrase because it sounded dramatic.

As an interesting side-note, the earliest versions of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator used boric acid as a poison (per patent application, video). Boric acid does kill mosquitoes, but Mr Hirsch was likely informed that he would never get EPA approval unless he had efficacy data. So he switched to using sodium chloride so that his device was eligible for an exemption to FIFRA 25(b) regulations. With this exemption he is allowed to sell the device in almost every state without needing any efficacy data.

Fourth, the holes in the cap are likely too small (5/32″, 4 mm) to allow mosquitoes to enter, at least with regard to mosquitoes in search of rotting fruit. There’s not a huge literature on what size holes mosquitoes can crawl through, but Dickerson et al. (2018) found that only 1 out of 100 female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes went through an 8-mm hole after 1 hour when presented with a host. Although a hungry female mosquito might squeeze itself through a small hole in search of a warm mammal (Bidlingmayer 1959), I doubt that they would do the same merely for some rotting sugar water. And I think it’s even more improbable that clouds of mosquitoes would find this hole acceptable even if there were mice stuffed inside the tube.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator cap with holes.

I think a fundamental problem of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is that in a typical yard mosquitoes have plenty of nectar and fruit sources already. So even if a mosquito could be coerced to enter a small hole under laboratory conditions of starvation, it is simply not going to do that in the real world. For an experiment that underscores this issue, please see Beier et al. 2012.

The owners view the critique above as slanderous and like to show videos of mosquitoes going through the holes. But the conditions the company uses are artificial: they put the devices inside small aquaria with several hundred, starving mosquitoes. And, apparently, only several mosquitoes ever stumble through the holes. There’s zero evidence those mosquitoes ingested anything while inside.

What should be done?

All of the above thoughts are just reasons why nobody should waste their money on Spartan Mosquito Eradicators. But I can’t simply end my review there — this device puts people at risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases. I.e., because people think they are protected from mosquitoes, they might fail to use CDC-recommended repellents, and some percentage of these people will contract one of the many diseases that are present in the United States. And the company owners are bragging about taking their inventions worldwide, to regions plagued by even more insidious diseases.

So the remainder of this post highlights where I think the company has violated FTC and EPA rules. If the sections seem overly long, that’s because I wanted to convey the very real sense that the company has been getting away with a lot, and for many years. These persistent and egregious violations warrant, I think, fines as well as immediate stop-sell orders.

Lack of trustworthy efficacy data

I’m fairly sure that Spartan Mosquito has misled governmental regulators about the effectiveness of the device for years. For example, here’s the graph on the box (and on website, Facebook) that claims to show mosquito populations are all but eliminated for 90 days.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator efficacy graph

A typical person is going to see this graph and assume that an actual experiment was done and that the device can virtually eliminate mosquitoes for 90 days. However, no details about this graph are ever given on the website — there’s no way to assess whether it was a good experiment or, indeed, whether it even happened. The only information I gleaned was from the URL of the same graph on the company’s website,

https://spartanmosquito.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Diagram-of-What_V3.jpg

which shows that the image was uploaded to the website in March of 2017. That’s Spring in Mississippi so that must mean the experiment was done in 2016 or before. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this graph and I think it shows the number of mosquitoes landing on the company owner’s arm on two different days during an event in Fall 2016 that the company calls, “Case Study CSL4GOV-ZIKA”, described below in a handout the company distributed to some Mississippi towns (they were trying to drum up government contracts):

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator Case Study by Joseph Waits and MS State Etymologist

The document says that a Lamar County official (Joseph Waits) and an etymologist [sic] from the Mississippi Department of Health conducted a study in late 2016 (as described in this story). The wording implies that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicators deployed in the area eliminated 100% of mosquitoes and that the Mississippi State Department of Health participated and approved of the data. It turns out the real reason the final mosquito count was zero was because the State of Mississippi sprayed the neighborhood with insecticides (on multiple days). By advertising with this graph, Spartan Mosquito has been misleading the public.

Another reason I think the graph refers to this event is because Mr Hirsch talked told a reporter that his “Zika-control event” lasted 90 days (png). Here’s the video in which he says that:

Even if the above data (and graph) were for some reason acceptable, there’s another way the company has been deceptive. In Fall 2016 the company was using boric acid as the active ingredient, not salt. Here’s a photograph of the device taken in March 2017 that shows boric acid as the active ingredient (you can also see the “boric acid” on the label if you do a screen grab on the video above).

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator with boric acid

It appears, then, that the efficacy data that Spartan Mosquito has been supplying to states and presenting to the public are based on a completely different device, not one that used sodium chloride as the active ingredient.

False or misleading efficacy claims

Spartan Mosquito Eradicators don’t contain a regulated pesticide so they are sold under a FIFRA 25(b) exemption. This means, in most states, that the device can be sold without providing any efficacy data. But the catch is that they may not make any claims about efficacy or disparage the efficacy of other products. Below is a small sampling of such claims. In each instance I’ve added an image file (png) that highlights the quoted text.

  1. According to Mr Hirsch, he chose the name, Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, to convey the “exterminate” sense of the word: “to get rid of completely usually by killing off” (source). Per the EPA, “product names cannot constitute false and misleading claims”.
  2. The graph is an efficacy claim. (png)
  3. “Eradicate your mosquito population for up to 90 days”. (png)
  4. “The mosquito population … will be 95% controlled for up to 90 days”. (box; Facebook)
  5. The Eradicator lasts up to 90 days and is proven to dispel up to 95 percent of your mosquito population in approximately 15 days.” (png)
  6. “With proper placement, the Mosquito population in the area will diminish by 95% in 15 days or less.” (png)
  7. “Spartan Mosquito Eradicators are extremely effective in controlling and decimating mosquito populations.” (png)
  8. “In every case, mosquito “hits” (mosquito bites or landings) are reduced to near zero, or zero, within weeks or even days.” (png)
  9. “… better than sprays, repellents, candles, and repellent services …” (png)
  10. “The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is the most effective, longest lasting, continuous mosquito control system.” (png) Exaggerated claims because device has not been tested against every other device on planet.
  11. Spartan Mosquito asserts that spray services (pyrethroids), bug zappers, repellents (e.g., DEET), etc., are all “less effective”. (png)
  12. “All of our 3rd party efficacy studies submitted and accepted by regulatory authorities in the United States demonstrate our devices destroy at least up to 95% of given populations.” (png)

False, illegal health claims

Devices with FIFRA 25(b) exemptions may not make any health claims, either. But company does so frequently. Here is a sampling.

  1. “To date, this is the most effective, longest-lasting Zika control response on record anywhere.” (jpg; png)
  2. “Purchase the Spartan Mosquito Bomb and fight the Zika virus!” (png)
  3. Its primary distributor implies that the device can protect families from eastern equine encephalitis. (png)
  4. A reseller claims that the device can protect against mosquito-borne disease (YouTube).
  5. The company says its device is “chemical free“, a claim prohibited by the EPA. (png) It’s also untrue (e.g., NaCl, H2O, C12H22O11).
  6. Spartan Mosquito is an all-natural alternative …” (png)
  7. “…all-natural ingredients…”. (png)
  8. The company implies repellents are harmful. (video 1, video 2, video 3).
  9. The company includes a photograph of a pregnant woman on the box to imply the device is safe. (png)
  10. The website mentions encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria on numerous occasions. Owner also mentions diseases when interviewed. This has the effect of implying the device can protect against such diseases. (Google search)
  11. Fewer bites equal fewer opportunities for mosquito-borne illnesses.” (png)
  12. Television ad that says device is proven to protect against diseases. (Facebook video)
  13. Spartan Mosquito invokes health concern about diseases on first page of brochure by writing, “the mosquito is the deadliest animal in the world”, “U.S. Center for Disease Control”, and “World Health Organization”. (png)
  14. Spartan Mosquito includes paragraph about the World Health Organization on website to imply it is a peer association and collaborator. The name-dropping also serves to increase search-related keyword matches. (png)

Misleading statements about active ingredient

The company has listed “sodium chloride” on the box as the sole active ingredient yet does not present data that shows sodium chloride kills adult mosquitoes. Here’s the relevant requirement from the EPA:

“Active ingredients are the ingredients that kill, repel, or mitigate the pests identified on the product label. If an ingredient does not perform one of these functions, then it is an inert ingredient and should not be identified as an active ingredient on the label.

https://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides/conditions-minimum-risk-pesticides

So saying that sodium chloride is the active ingredient violates EPA rules. It appears the owners know the salt doesn’t kill mosquitoes, too, because on multiple webpages, on replies to Amazon reviews, and in videos, owners have suggested that it is the carbon dioxide, instead, that causes mosquitoes to die. This “mosquitoes have no way to expel gas” assertion is featured (png), for example, in the brochure that Spartan Mosquito gives to potential distributors and resellers. This switch in mechanism of action appears to suggest that the company has misled regulators about the active ingredient. And, also, that the company misled the states about the inactive ingredients as well.

False or misleading statements

Here are assertions that Spartan Mosquito makes that appear to be false or misleading.

  1. Company asserts that mosquitoes are drawn to the device by carbon dioxide. Company does not have data to support this claim. It is my understanding that the company has data showing the device does not produce sufficient CO2 to be attractive. It has not released these negative data. (png)
  2. Company asserts that salt and CO2 cause mosquito death: “When a mosquito ingests the mixture in Spartan Mosquito Eradicators, the Sodium Chloride combined with the CO2 produced by the fermentation process causes the mosquito’s stomach to rupture.” As discussed above, there is no evidence that either salt or CO2 kills mosquitoes.
  3. “Spartan Mosquito Eradicators are designed to maintain a specific salinity balance…” (png). There is no evidence that this device can maintain a particular salt level.
  4. Company claims the devices “form a barrier around the property.” (png; pdf) Device does not fit the definition of a barrier.
  5. “… a unique solution activated by simply adding warm water, shaking, and hanging…” (png). Also from website, Amazon: “…uniquely effective …” (png). EPA rules specifically prohibit the use of the word, “unique”.
  6. Company insists that mosquitoes don’t die inside the device but rather later, after leaving the device. Company makes this assertion, I think, to undermine the obvious criticism that mosquitoes are never found inside the device.

Deceptive marketing practices

Spartan Mosquito fails to disclose relevant information to consumers about testimonials, videos, and newspaper articles that promote its device. Some examples are below.

  1. The testimonial by “Michael B.” (png) on the website may have been authored by Michael Bonner, father of one of the co-owners (Chris Michael Bonner) of Spartan Mosquito. Micheal Bonner is a resident of Hattiesburg, where the company is based and where both owners live. Michael Bonner is also owner of Bonner Analytical Testing Laboratory, where his son Chris is employed. Some of the “tests” of the Eradicator take place on Micheal Bonner’s property. He has a PhD (png). NB: most other reviewers have last names fully spelled out, so the use of “B” is to obscure who this person is (deception).
  2. At least two testimonials appear to apply to the boric-acid version, not the salt-based one that is currently available. E.g., the review by Michael B. (png) was dated 2015, and the review by Joe K. (png; likely Joe Kintzel of Hattiesburg, deceased April 2016) must also refer to results from before his death (i.e., sometime during 2015). Given his age at death, I suspect he was a friend or acquaintance of Michael Bonner (the father of Chris Bonner, co-owner of company). All of the undated testimonials on the website are thus suspect — all could refer to the devices that shipped with boric acid.
  3. Two testimonials (“Jesse L.” and “Mark G.”; png) featured on website appear to be people involved in early testing by the company. Jesse L. is part of this test, and website/Facebook mentions testing done on the Mississippi Delta (png). It’s likely these guys received free devices.
  4. Company makes extensive use of television-like videos on website, Facebook, and YouTube without disclosing that segments are paid promotional ads, not real interviews. E.g., all the videos from First Coast Living, such as this one.
  5. Similarly, many of the items in the “News” section of its website appear to be publications that were paid for by Spartan Mosquito.
  6. Company uses a photograph (png) of a government official (wearing a Spartan Mosquito t-shirt) in a government room to imply that the device has official, governmental approval. The person pictured is Dr Phillip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami and a professor of biology at Florida International University. I strongly suspect he does not endorse this device or even know he is being used in advertising.

Unethical customer support

When customers on Amazon give the device low ratings, the company will never admit that the product doesn’t work. Instead, it blames the users, insisting they failed to (1) deploy the devices early enough, (2) buy enough units for the size of the property, (3) place them in right spots, (4) place them at the right height in trees, or (5) wait long enough for devices to start working their magic. In many cases, the company asserts that customer is guilty of all of the above. I fully understand that some types of devices (e.g., airplanes) don’t work if instructions are not followed exactly, but I’d argue that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicators is not such a device. The insistence that “directions weren’t followed” seems more like a scheme to immunize the company against scam complaints.

If a buyer persists in claiming the devices simply don’t work, the company will ask the customer to call a “Deployment Specialist”, somebody who will call up your street address on a Google satellite map and tell you where you should put the devices. That’s creepy.

What can be done?

I’ve done all of the below but the authorities will not act unless they hear from 1 or 2 additional people. Please choose one if you have a minute. It really would help.

By the way, as of Dec 20, 2019, Spartan Mosquito Eradicators can be purchased in all states except Connecticut, Idaho, New Mexico, South Dakota, and DC. These states require efficacy data. FEB 2020 UPDATE: Sales in Montana, Utah, and Puerto Rico have also been stopped.

If you want to mention names in any of the complaints, the owners are Jeremy Hirsch and Chris Bonner. The company address is 8 Nemo Clark Dr, Laurel, MS 39443. Phone number is (844) 625-2742. Email address is info@spartanmosquito.com. These two guys also make Sock-It Skeeters, a cheapo version of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. By the way, Mr Bonner also owns a company (Bonner Analytical Testing Laboratory) that does a lot of contract work for the EPA … one of the agencies that regulates pesticide devices.

Mr Hirsch claims the company is now worth $100 million. I’m dubious. But I’m hoping the FTC will accept that valuation as trustworthy and use it as guide for setting a fine.

In other news, if you’re a NASCAR fan you’ll be seeing a lot of Spartan Mosquito advertising in 2020. The company is sponsoring car No. 15, driven by Brennan Poole. Although this is a good use of advertising dollars for Spartan Mosquito (it’s the right demographic), I think it’s going to backfire when states that have tracks ban the device. For example, if Indiana (home of Indianapolis 500) decides to enforce a stop-sell order, NASCAR fans in the state will be outraged that they can’t buy Eradicators at the local hardware store anymore. Situations like this around the country will eventually generate unwelcome publicity for the company. Mr Poole is already angry, apparently.

More information

Please also see my review of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, the company’s newest device.

Please email me if you have a question or comment. If you are a state regulator, please feel free to download and use any of the images on this page.

UPDATES

  • Testing shows that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators don’t work.
  • Testing shows that salt does not kill mosquitoes.
  • The American Mosquito Control Association is unimpressed with device.
  • Company is being sued for $5 million.
  • California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Washington (state), D.C., and Puerto Rico have prohibited sales.
  • The EPA is investigating company.
  • Spartan Mosquito has purged its website of any mention of the Eradicator.
  • Spartan Mosquito has stopped making the Eradicator and is now selling only the Pro Tech.
  • Spartan Mosquito has deleted its companion website for marketing in malarial Africa. The Facebook page appears abandoned, with zero followers.
  • The tubes are no longer available on Amazon.
  • The Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry disclosed that its office did not demand efficacy data from Spartan Mosquito. As to why state laws were not followed, BPI answered “above my pay grade”.
  • The Federal government has given a coronavirus-related PPP loan of $428,345.00 to the company. It’s being used to support 45 employees. It’s unclear how many are attorneys.
  • The company is being sued by its marketing agency (PDF; see pages 15-40). Details are fascinating.