Tag Archives: experiment

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Spartan Mosquito, the company that makes the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator (which I reviewed in 2019), has unveiled a new device called the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech. I thought I’d share what I know about the product in case anyone is curious.

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. I think the Pro Tech is an attractive toxic sugar bait (ATSB) device, just like the Eradicator. The general idea behind ATSBs is to kill adult mosquitoes by getting them to eat insecticide-laced sugar water (mosquitoes love sugar).

The big difference appears to be that the active ingredient is now boric acid instead of sodium chloride. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that the other ingredients are still sugar and yeast. The consumer adds warm water, just as for the Eradicator.

How does the Pro Tech kill mosquitoes?

To the best of my knowledge, the Pro Tech kills mosquitoes in 11 steps:

  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

Presumably, the device would eventually kill tens of thousands of mosquitoes in this way and thus provide control to a homeowner. I.e., if a homeowner has thousands of mosquitoes in her yard on a given day (probably a reasonable estimate), some large fraction will march through the steps above. Per this scenario there would be a visible cloud of hundreds of mosquitoes around the devices at any given time — this is why the company suggests setting the devices up at least 80 feet away from where people might be. Here’s what it might look like:

Hypothetical figure showing cloud of mosquitoes around Spartan Mosquito Pro Techs. Original figure (without mosquitoes shown) is from the included instructions.

Because the company hasn’t disclosed the full ingredient list, I’m unsure of what exactly would attract mosquitoes to the tubes (step 1). For the Eradicator, the company says that carbon dioxide (produced by the yeast) attracts mosquitoes, so perhaps the Pro Tech is based on the same hypothesis. But it’s my understanding that carbon dioxide production would last only a day or so before falling below appreciable levels (the yeast consumes the sugar after a day or so, as yeast does), so it’s unclear why mosquitoes would continue to be attracted. I’ll update if the company reveals more details.

I’m also unsure how long it takes a mosquito to die after ingesting boric acid (step 11) but I’m guessing between one and two days based on experiments based on the literature. This duration is important because if, say, dragonflies eat hundreds of mosquitoes that have guts filled with boric acid, they might die, too.

Is the Pro Tech better?

According to the information released by the company, there are two reasons why the Pro Tech seems like a bad deal compared to the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. The first is that Pro Tech needs to be replaced every 30 days instead of 90. The second is that Pro Tech only “kills mosquitoes” whereas the Eradicator is supposed to kill 95% of mosquitoes (the latter strikes me as more impressive). Because both devices are the same price, the Eradicator appears to be a much better buy.

On the potential plus side, however, the company says that the Pro Tech is able to kill mosquito species that live in salt marshes (and thus implies that the Eradicator does not). So perhaps this new device is targeting consumers in coastal areas of the United States.

The company also states that the Pro Tech’s effectiveness isn’t degraded by water quality or rain. I’m not exactly sure what this means. The Eradicator label doesn’t say anything about the effectiveness being affected by water quality. Regarding the latter, the Pro Tech instructions say, “monitor for flooding after heavy rains – flooded tubes must be replaced”, which seems to suggest rain is (still) a problem.

Perhaps the largest improvement of the Pro Tech is that the company now offers a money back guarantee, which the Eradicator lacked. I think, however, you have to ask for your money back within 30 days.

Consumers can assess whether Pro Techs attract mosquitoes

Homeowners can easily determine whether the devices attract mosquitoes (and thus assess whether they are worth buying every month). Just take photographs or videos of your Pro-Tech (or Eradicator) and examine for presence of mosquitoes. It should be rather dramatic — company warns on the label to hang the devices away from people due to the gathering of mosquitoes. During the Covid-19 shutdown, I think plenty of people will have time on their hands to do this. All you need is a phone and a mosquito problem. Example below shows an Eradicator ready for filming. Just situate camera close enough so that you can easily distinguish fruit flies (which adore fermenting sugar water) from mosquitoes.

If you observe no mosquitoes at all, you can just return the device — there’s a 100% money-back guarantee. And if you observe a cloud of mosquitoes, send the photograph to Spartan Mosquito — I suspect they’ll be thrilled and perhaps would use your photograph (with credit, I’m sure) on their marketing materials.

Here’s a YouTube video in which a guy tests whether sugar-yeast solutions attract mosquitoes. Not a single mosquito was attracted. (Also, ignore what he says at the end about plants that repel mosquitoes … they do not.)

Consumers can measure how many mosquitoes ingest fluid

If you’re truly bored during the coronavirus lockdown and happen to have a water-soluble, contact insecticide handy, you can add the appropriate amount to the fluid in one of your Pro Techs and then open it up after 30 days. Any insect that ingested the fluid would die before it can escape. At the end of 30 days, dump the contents out onto a large white container and then count how many mosquitoes you have. Contact me if you have success — I’d love to receive the photograph of the killed insects. I’m happy to identify any mosquitoes, too.

Do Pro Techs kill mosquitoes IN YARDS?

The big mystery, to me, concerns the data submitted to the EPA for registration (which was granted). To demonstrate that Pro Techs would kill mosquitoes in consumers’ yards, one would need to do an experiment that involved, say, 200 typical yards equipped with devices as per company’s instructions. The devices in 100 of these yards would be normal (“off the shelf”), with the other 100 having the boric acid removed. In this way a person could analyze the mosquito counts in all 200 yards and see whether devices with boric acid reduced those counts. Ideally, the person analyzing the data wouldn’t even know which yards had the boric-acid tubes and which yards had the controls (placebo).

However, there’s apparently no requirement from the EPA that Spartan Mosquito provide proof that the device kills mosquitoes when deployed outside. Which shocked me, to be honest. Here’s the wording from the EPA about what type of data are required:

I’m wondering, therefore, whether Spartan Mosquito submitted data from only laboratory experiments. One worry I have about laboratory experiments involving the Pro Tech is that boric acid evaporates. This means that mosquitoes trapped inside cages with Pro Techs might die at a faster rate simply because boric acid is in the air (inside the aquarium cage), not because any of the mosquitoes actually squeezed through holes in the caps and ingested the liquid. Another reason to avoid cage studies is that it might involve mosquitoes that are given only one source of sugar — this would inflate the number of mosquitoes entering the holes in the cap. In other words, in the real world (outside), mosquitoes might prefer to utilize nectar and rotting fruit in a yard instead of squeezing through small holes in a tube. Those are just two ways in which a laboratory experiment might produce a strong result that would mislead even the investigator.

Ultimately, I have no idea whether the experiments were conducted indoors or outside, had replication, or whether the design was double-blind as some states require. And there’s no way to confirm that laboratory that conducted the experiments used proper controls (a very common problem in science). If you have details, I’d love to hear from you.

Where to buy

The new device is likely to be a huge seller in states where the Spartan Eradicator can’t be sold (CA, CT, DC, ID, IN, ME, MT, NM, PR, SD, and UT). In fact, that might be the primary reason it is being marketed — to be able to sell in those 11 areas. Because the Pro Tech can be sold everywhere and consumers would need new ones every 30 days (more profit!), I suspect the company will stop making the Eradicator after this season. There’s a good chance it has already stopped. My prediction is that by July 2020 the company will announce, “Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers about the Pro Tech, we will stop selling the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator.” Or something like that. UPDATE: as of May 6 (maybe earlier) company has raised the price of a box of Spartan Mosquito Eradicators on Amazon from $25.94 to $34.95. I’m assuming this is part of strategy to push customers to the Pro Tech.

The company also has plans to sell the Pro Tech in Africa, apparently in areas hard hit by malaria. I believe it’s being marketed in Africa as the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech Eradicator.

More information

Here’s Spartan Mosquito’s webpage on the Pro Tech. It currently doesn’t have any information on how the device works or how effective it is, but you can ask questions on the company’s Facebook page. The company tends to delete questions it deems as negative (within seconds, in fact), so keep them cheery.

I’m not aware of any third-party reviews of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech. You can always reach out to your local Extension Agent for advice on which mosquito-control technologies are recommended for the area you live in. Or contact Joe Conlon, the technical advisor at the American Mosquito Control Association.


Leave a comment below. Ask me anything.

Shaving your legs to deter ticks

People shave their legs for a variety of reasons: to look younger, to look less like men, to show off tattoos, to show off muscle definition, to improve athletic performance, to facilitate post-accident wound cleaning (cyclists), and, apparently, to get a pleasurable sensory overload when wearing clothing. But can shaving also protect you from ticks?

I became curious this week after watching this dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) crawl up my leg:

Here are some reasons why I think shaving would protect from ticks:

  1. Ticks can grip hair, so if you are hairless they can’t climb as fast.
  2. If you have hairless legs you can most likely better feel them crawling up your leg.
  3. When you remove all your leg hair you are removing a lot of sensory distractions caused by wind (experiment on swimmers) and thus you can zero in on things crawling on you.
  4. Without hair, small ticks are much easier to spot. Also easier for others to spot, in case people are ogling your legs.

No experiments on this topic have been done, but I found three relevant snippets on the internet:

  • “One thing that helps is shaving your legs. Not a foolproof way but I would say it reduces them critters by 80%, maybe more. I noticed that when my wife and I were out and she had none, I had around 14 that day.” source
  • “As an experiment I shaved my legs before riding point to point at lbl with KRS and a few others. It was tick season. After 40+ miles of riding I had 1 tick on my sock. Along the way KRS pulled OVER 15 ticks. We rode the same route at the same pace. I’ve kept the hair off ever since.”  source
  • “I’d say its mostly impractical. Although, I know many trail runners (including myself sometimes in the summer) do it to prevent ticks from attaching.” source

One experiment that needs to be done is to count the numbers of ticks on a group of people out for a walk, some of whom shave. But at least in the United States, that would break down to men versus women, and males smell worse than women and thus might attract more ticks, regardless of hirsuteness. And men are usually larger, so there’s the surface area thing that goes against guys, too. So it would be far better to recruit a group of hairy-legged people and ask them to shave just one leg, then march around a field known to have ticks. An ideal group for this experiment might be a men’s swim team right before the season begins. I.e., they all have hairy legs but will likely shave them for the season … so they won’t care. Would be crazy photogenic and fun. Plus great team-building exercise. Would get the college on the evening news I’m sure.

A simpler design might be to just have a motivated group of people (perhaps students in a field ecology course?) conduct tick races on shaved vs unshaved legs. You just need to start them on the ankles and have participants hold still while the ticks make their ascents. That would be equally photogenic and fun, I think.

If somebody does go ahead and conducts this experiment, the next step would be get the CDC to add a shaving recommendation to their tick page. The reaction to that would be really entertaining.