Tag Archives: kill

Experiment shows Spartan Mosquito Eradicator do not work

Experiments on Spartan Mosquito Eradicators fail to detect efficacy

According to research conducted in Florida, there’s no evidence that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators kill mosquitoes. Here’s the citation:

Aryaprema, V.S., E. Zeszutko, C. Cunningham, E.I.M. Khater, and R.-D. Xue. 2020. Efficacy of commercial toxic sugar bait station (ATSB) against Aedes albopictus. J. Florida Mosquito Control Association 67: 80-83. PDF

I summarize the two experiments and explore some of the implications, below.

Laboratory experiment

Below is a rough reconstruction of the laboratory experiment they conducted. In each of the cages (BugDorm-2120), 100 male and 100 female tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) were released, then monitored for mortality at 24, 48, and 72 hours.

Schematic of laboratory experiment based on description in Aryaprema et al. 2020.

Below are the cumulative mortality data for the three cages. Result: the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator filled with the provided packet ingredients (treatment) did not result in higher mortality. I.e., there was no evidence the device killed mosquitoes under laboratory conditions.

Field experiment

The researchers also conducted a field experiment using two sites that had large populations of tiger mosquitoes (because of the presence of tires). At each site they deployed five tubes (separated by 4 m), switching whether the tubes were “treatment” or “control” tubes every 2 weeks. A BG-Sentinel trap (without carbon dioxide) was used to quantify mosquito numbers every week.

Schematic of field experiment based on description in Aryaprema et al. 2020.

Below are the weekly numbers of mosquitoes caught in the BG Sentinel traps. Results: there was no evidence that presence of treatment tubes (filled as per company guidelines) reduced the numbers of mosquitoes at the sites.

Conclusions

Their overall conclusion: “Both laboratory and field components of our study show that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is not effective in reducing abundance of Ae. albopictus.” They speculate that the contents do not attract mosquitoes and that the holes on the device (~3 mm) are too small for mosquitoes to easily reach the fluid inside. They also highlight the need for an experiment to evaluate whether the active ingredient (1% sodium chloride) kills adult mosquitoes. I.e., even if mosquitoes were attracted to Spartan Mosquito Eradicators and could easily get inside, the salt might not be lethal. Per unpublished research, a 1% salt solution is, in fact, not lethal to adult mosquitoes.

Implications

The results of the experiments call into question the efficacy claims made by the owners of Spartan Mosquito. For example, the company says on the box that a 95% reduction in mosquitoes will occur within 15 days and will last for three months. The company also prints a graph on the label that indicates almost 99% of mosquitoes are killed by the end of this period.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator efficacy graph

If the claims are false or misleading, which seems to be the case, states can classify the device as “misbranded” and issue stop-sell orders. Some have already done so.

These findings will also be important for the class-action suit that has been filed against the company and its owners. I.e., because there is now peer-reviewed evidence that the device does not kill mosquitoes, it will be considerably easier to prove to a jury that the company’s efficacy claims are false or misleading.

Finally, the results call into question the efficacy claims of the company’s newest product, the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, which replaces sodium chloride with boric acid. Although a boric acid solution can certainly be lethal if mosquitoes ingest it, the Pro Tech is based on the same design as the Eradicator and thus would not be expected to either attract mosquitoes or to allow them easy access to the fluid inside. The Pro Tech label, however, asserts that the device will attract and kill mosquitoes. It would be great to get a third-party assessment of whether those label claims are true.

Testing the Eradicator and Pro Tech at home

In regards to the question of attractiveness to mosquitoes, consumers can easily assess that at home with a zoom-equipped camera, binoculars, or a security camera. The idea is to be able to see mosquitoes near the cap (if they are there) but to be far enough away so as not to distract the mosquitoes. Ideally, capture a photograph or movie and get confirmation of what insects are actually gathering around the device (again, if any).

Per the above paper, you likely won’t see mosquitoes gathering around the devices. Per the company, mosquitoes will gather around the devices.

People can also assess whether mosquitoes are entering the devices by dumping the contents onto a white plate and taking a photograph. Ideally, share your photographs on Spartan Mosquito’s Facebook page — they’d love to see them. Or post on them on Twitter and cc me (@colinpurrington).

How to kill spotted lanternflies

Below are tips for homeowners who’d like to kill spotted lanternflies (Lycorma delicatula), invasive planthoppers from Asia that use bark-piercing mouthparts to suck out phloem from a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and vines. They can aggregate in the thousands when they find a suitable host plant. An additional reason to dislike them is that they exude a sugary exudate that coats plants and surfaces with a sticky, slippery film that eventually turns black due to fungal growth.

Lycorma delicatula (spotted lanternfly) showing underwings

Although it is impossible to eliminate all of the spotted lanternflies from a yard, with a little vigilance you can minimize their numbers and thus protect your favorite trees from being weakened. Below are suggestions on how to kill them at the egg stage (September to March), the nymph stage (April to May), and the adult stage (June to November).

Ways to kill eggs

The easiest way to kill large numbers of these insects is to find them at the egg stage and squish them. This can be done by applying enough force with a hard, flat object (stick, trowel, stiff credit card) to create a popping noise as you progress from one side of the case to the other. You should see juices being exuded.

I also think that a mini rolling pin would be ideal, as would the smooth end of a meat-tenderizer mallet (but don’t hurt your trees!). A meat tenderizer is better than a hammer primarily because it better protects the user from the resulting spray of liquid as the eggs are crushed.

PRO-TIP: In late winter and early spring the egg masses becomes brittle, so apply a section of wide tape over the egg case before hitting them. This prevents eggs on the edges from being launched to safety.

If you can’t stomach the sound and the goo, an alternative is to scrape the eggs into a container filled with a fluid such as alcohol or hand sanitizer, or into a container or bag that can be sealed and thrown in the trash. The important consideration here is that simply scraping them off the tree onto the ground will not kill the eggs/larvae that are inside.

There are several challenges to killing them at the egg stage. The first is that the egg masses are covered with a shiny purple/gray substance that tends to weather and blend in with tree bark over time, so finding them is difficult. Here are some photographs that illustrate the variability (click to expand).

Second, the egg masses are often high up in the canopy of a tree, sometimes on thin branches that you’d never be able to reach even if you are a good climber. Third, the adults have a habit of ovipositing in areas that are completely hidden from view, such as underneath a loose piece of bark, behind a seat cushion on the deck, or in a wheel well of a car. There’s just no way to find all the egg cases in a yard.

PRO-TIP: as the egg cases weather the eggs beneath the waxy substance sometimes become more visible. So make a habit of reexamining surfaces in February and March when leaves are not blocking your view. Take a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with you on patrols, to keep your spirits up. As motivation, remember that each egg case has 20-50 eggs, and they are much easier to kill than 20-50 nymphs.

As far as I know, spraying the egg cases with insecticide is not especially effective. A propane torch is likely to do the trick but I wouldn’t recommend that if eggs are attached to a tree or your house.

Ways to kill nymphs

Flyswatter: If you are protecting just one tree, insert a pushpin into the trunk so that you have a convenient place to hang the flyswatter.

Circle traps: These involve a little time to make but they look fantastic. Here’s a page that gives detailed instructions.

Sticky traps: The nymphs crawl up and down trees starting in April so you can trap hundreds if you wrap trunks with sticky tape. If you want to go low-tech, duct tape works OK (use push pins to attach) but you’ll need to replace after every rain. You can also buy commercial tapes that are weather resistant. These commercial tapes often have two issues, though. The first is that double-sided tapes will leave a band on your tree forever, so protect the trunk with plastic wrap (underneath) before applying. The second is that some tapes are so sticky that they’ll easily trap birds (and squirrels, snakes, and bats) so you MUST cover the band with chicken wire. Here’s a photograph of a bird trapped on sticky paper in case you think this risk is overblown. Penn State has a good summary of using sticky traps. As does Farm & Dairy.

Cordless stick vacuum: A DustBuster would work fine but the long extension arm of a stick vacuum is ideal for reaching into vegetation. I own a Dyson cordless stick vacuum but there are lots of options (e.g., on Amazon).

Bug-A-Salt rifle: I also don’t own one of these, sadly, so I can’t absolutely guarantee it will work. But I’d be really surprised if they didn’t. I think it would make the daily lanternfly patrol really fun, and everyone in the family would want a turn. You can buy them on the Bug-A-Salt website and on Amazon. Do not buy one if you have children in the house … you can definitely shoot your eye out with these things.

Electric flyswatter: I own one of these and they work really well on large flies so I don’t see why they wouldn’t work on spotted lanternfly nymphs. There are dozens for sale on Amazon. I don’t, however, think they have enough power to kill the adults (I’ll check this summer).

Pathogenic fungi: There are at least two fungi (Beauveria bassiana and Batkoa major) that seem to infect spotted lanternfly, so it might be possible to coat them with a powder or a spray and watch them slowly die. Unfortunately, the experiments on whether this is worthwhile are not yet done (or not yet published), so I can’t guarantee success. But in the wild, these fungi seem to do their thing well. I’m going to buy some Beauveria bassiana from Amazon for the 2020 season, just for giggles. Batkoa major is not yet for sale, I think.

Insecticides: I really don’t recommend spraying spotted lanternfly nymphs with insecticides, in part because unlike adults, nymphs tend to spread out everywhere in a yard and are therefore hard to target with contact poisons. Plus a typical homeowner (I include myself) is not in a position to apply pesticides safely and in an environmentally-responsible way. That said, nymphs are susceptible to many insecticides and researchers at Penn State University (and elsewhere) have done experiments to figure out which ones are the best. On a related note, I think homeowners should be wary of pesticide applicators and tree-care companies that offer full-yard treatments à la Mosquito Squad (i.e., fogging yard with pyrethroids several times per summer); that will likely cause bird and firefly decines.

Lycorma delicatula (spotted lanternfly) on tree

Ways to kill adults

Backpack vacuum: If you are serious about controlling spotted lanternflies, go buy yourself a backpack, battery-powered vacuum that has a large, clear repository. Then you can stroll around your yard in the evening and suck up hundreds if not thousands over a short period of time. Another benefit of the vacuum method is that you won’t leave half-crushed lanternflies all over your prized trees. Note: a backpack leaf mulcher will also do the job but might be tad disgusting. A shop-vac will work in a pinch but is much less convenient.

PRO-TIP: Buy a Ghostbusters costume for your gullible child and tell them sucking up lanternflies is good practice.

Leaf vacuum: Maybe something like the Black and Decker 36v Cordless (GWC3600L). I don’t own one of these but they look fun. Amazon carries a lot. Most hardware stores can set you up. Note that most leaf vacuums shred … so be prepared for some goo.

Airsoft gun: Don’t get one of these if you have kids. But if you have a semi-responsible adult who enjoys killing spotted lanternflies, this would be an amazing gift. I see them as especially valuable in killing the adults that are high up in branches, out of the range of your vacuum. Buy only biodegradable pellets, opt for lightest pellets you can find (to minimize tree damage), and wear safety goggles (the pellets ricochet off tree trucks). Note that Airsoft guns are illegal in some areas (e.g., Arkansas, parts of Michigan, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, NYC). And, of course, you always run the risk of being shot by police even if you are on your own property. To minimize the risk of being shot, DO NOT remove the blaze-orange tip.

Pathogenic fungi: As I mentioned in the nymph section, Beauveria bassiana is for sale on Amazon. It might not work effectively (or at all) but if you’d like to experiment it might be worth a try. Here’s an adult I found that I think is infected.

Insecticides: Again, I don’t recommend spraying them with insecticides — this is a nuisance insect, not a health threat, and mechanical controls work well. But if you like chemicals, please follow the directions so that pollution of waterways and death of bystander arthropods (and amphibians) are minimized. For more details on which pesticides work, consult the table under “Chemical Control” on this page from Penn State University.

I also don’t recommend that homeowners treat tree-of-heavens (Ailanthus altissima) with systemic insecticides to create bait trees, currently a popular idea. It seems like a perfect solution: because tree of-heaven is their favorite host, you could potentially kill thousands of adults as they arrive to feed on insecticide-laced trees. And it’s touted as being safe for other insects because few other insects eat the foliage (the trees are invasives from Asia). The huge downside, in my opinion, is that many systemic insecticides find their way into nectar and pollen, and thus these bait trees will likely poison large number of pollinators. This downside should be especially worrying to suburban beekeepers because those chemicals could potentially end up in honey. And, more generally, the bulk of systemic insecticides is likely washed into waterways or taken up by nearby plants in your yard.

Dawn soap: This is one of many home remedies that has gone viral but should not have. Detergents pollute waterways and can also damage plants. I.e., there are actually reasons why Dawn soap is not an approved insecticide.

Propane torch: This looks extremely satisfying (see video) but it’s just going to result in forest fires and home losses. Don’t be that guy. If you’re married to that guy, hide the propane tank.

Chinese mantids: Please do not buy mantid egg cases and release in your yard. Chinese mantids are invasive and mainly eat butterflies (even monarchs, even hummingbirds). They are not beneficial insects, despite claims to the contrary on Pinterest.

Ways to kill tree-of-heaven trees

Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is the preferred host for spotted lanternfly so if you have one in your yard it will attract thousands of adults from all across your neighborhood. Kill it right now. And don’t worry, it’s an invasive plant and deserves to die. Note that to kill a tree-of-heaven you need to chop it down and treat stump with herbicide (instructions). Or treat with herbicide, wait until it dies, then chop it down. And if you notice tree-of-heaven in your neighborhood, alert the authorities so that it can be destroyed. Below is a photograph of one in Springfield, Pennsylvania. By the way, that building was covered with egg cases. I’d bet that car (with Massachusetts plates) got egged, too.

Similarly, get rid of Amur cork trees (Phellodendron amurense), another invasive tree from Asia that spotted lanternflies adore.

More information

Much of the above is pulled from presentations I made in 2019 to the CRC Watersheds Association and the Scott Arboretum. If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me. I live in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, deep inside the spotted lanternfly quarantine zone, and just 60 minutes from Berks County, PA, where the pest was first imported, circa 2012, on decorative rocks shipped from South Korea.

Links

© COLIN PURRINGTON

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.

Why do people buy them?

The United States has millions of gullible people, so it’s always a great place for charlatans to make a buck. But there’s a reason why even educated people sometimes get fooled into thinking Spartan Mosquito Eradicators work — many people in the United States don’t realize that towns and counties spray insecticides regularly, which suddenly lowers mosquito populations to tolerable levels. So if people set up Spartan Mosquito Eradicators right when towns spray (at night, when people aren’t watching), certain people conclude, wrongly, that the devices caused the low mosquito numbers. Similarly, many people who buy and deploy Spartan Mosquito Eradicators might just have low mosquito counts in their yards for some other reason (e.g., very little rain prior to hanging the devices out in yard). This phenomenon is called an illusion of causality, and explains why people become believers in all sorts of strange things (e.g., dowsing rods). And then once a person decides the devices work, the power of confirmation bias will continue to reinforce that incorrect conclusion. Eventually, no amount of evidence to the contrary is likely to change their belief.

Spartan Mosquito should be shut down

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 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.