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.
Evaluating the claim
I used a security camera to record activity around the cap area. Here’s a photograph of how I arranged everything:
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.
I collected continuous footage for over a week, ending observations on September 10th. The mosquitoes were still plentiful on that day.
Spartan Mosquito, Jeremy Hirsch, and the Bonner Analytical Testing Company are targets of a class-action suit filed May 4th, 2020, in the Southern District of New York by the firm Bursor & Fisher. Suit seeks court orders to stop the defendants’ illegal practices and for company to undertake a corrective advertising campaign. $5,000,000 is also sought.
“… the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is a complete scam.”
“Product is ineffective for mosquito control because it does not kill mosquitoes or decrease mosquito populations.”
“Defendants are well-aware that the Product is ineffective yet sell it anyway in pursuit of profit and in clear disregard for public health and safety.”
“If Defendants’ claim of having solved one of mankind’s most vexing problems and greatest health challenges using just sugar, salt, and yeast sounds too good be true, that is because it is.”
“Defendants already know that the Product does not work. They have repeatedly commissioned efficacy tests which found that Defendants’ marketing claims were unsupported and that the Product did not work as advertised. However, they have suppressed publication of these findings using nondisclosure agreements and threats to the scientists involved in this research.”
“… the Mosquito Illness Alliance has listed the Product as the first in their list of ‘Myths/Scams (Products that do not work)’.”
Spartan’s founder and spokesperson, Jeremy Hirsch, has made personal threats to at least one scientist involved in this research in order to intimidate him out of publicizing the results of his research.”
Spartan Mosquito and Jeremy Hirsch (inventor, chairman of the board, spokesperson) are represented by Edward Boyle and Anna Dimon (both of Venable LLP). Bonner Analytical Testing Company (owned by Spartan VP Chris Bonner’s dad) is represented by Rachel Bandli and Daniel Benson (both of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, a favorite of Trump and similar folks). Bonner Analytical is named in the suit because some of the experiments were conducted at the facility. The attorney who filed the class-action is Yitzchak Kopel. Mr Kopel seems to specialize on companies that make mosquito-control claims.
AC2T, Inc, a Mississippi company valued at over $100 million, is suing me in Federal court over my review of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. The device is a plastic tube filled with sugar, salt, yeast, and water and is purported to act as an attractive toxic sugar bait. Box claims that device will eradicate (kill) approximately 95% of mosquitoes in a yard for 90 days. It is primarily marketed at feed stores in rural areas of the United States. Here’s the company’s complaint (27-page PDF).
“In this lawsuit, Spartan seeks to use its superior financial resources to silence a former college professor who has been exercising his constitutional rights to petition his government and advocate on an important environmental and public health issue: the effectiveness of commercially available mosquito control devices. In Mr. Purrington’s opinion, based upon his personal evaluation of Spartan’s product and his scientific knowledge, Spartan has made false and misleading claims about the efficacy of its product, thereby violating federal environmental regulations and potentially endangering public health. Most of the statements that Spartan cites in the Complaint reflect Mr. Purrington’s efforts to reach federal and state officials with information about Spartan’s misleading and false claims concerning the efficacy of its product. The remaining statements reflect Mr. Purrington’s efforts to raise public awareness of the matters about which he is petitioning, describe his own opinions, or contain facts that Spartan does not, and cannot, deny are true. Applicable law does not provide Spartan with a valid claim against Mr. Purrington under those circumstances. Notably, even if Spartan could show that Mr. Purrington should be liable for his statements, Spartan fails to plead facts that would suggest it has incurred even a cent of damage to its business to justify its claims. That omission suggests that Spartan has sued merely to intimidate Mr. Purrington rather than to recover any demonstrable damage to its business. For those reasons, Mr. Purrington respectfully requests that the Court dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, with prejudice.”
I think a big part of why they decided to sue me is that they truly believe I’m being paid by some big pesticide company. The reality, of course, is that I just enjoy writing about sciency things. I have zero funding and have lost money on this blog for over a decade. The other reason they are suing me is probably just plain vindictiveness, anger that the scheme has been revealed to neighbors and the world.
Care to represent me?
I’m urgently looking for an attorney to represent me pro bono (my current lawyer is fantastic but I’ve simply run out of money). If you are a fan of science and dislike bullies, I’d be grateful if you got in touch with me. I can email PDFs of any of these documents if you have an interest. Here’s a listing of the case files:
Here’s a link to Pennsylvania’s anti-SLAPP legislation. It sounds like I would be covered: I was mainly in contact with the Environmental Protection Agency, asking them to act on FIFRA violations. I also encouraged others to contact the EPA because I suspected it would take more than just one person to get the interest of EPA attorneys.
Would also be very excited to discuss a SLAPP-back suit, too. Spartan Mosquito is a $100-million company so has deep pockets. They’ll have plenty of money left even after the $5-million class-action suit is over.
In related news, nobody has started a class-action suit over the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech (the above-linked suit concerns the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator).