In the United States, seven companies are selling tubes filled with water, sugar, and yeast for mosquito control, all likely inspired by the “DIY mosquito trap from a soda bottle” that went viral years ago but still circulates on Pinterest and Facebook (and which doesn’t work). This blog post summarizes the nine and ends with a section on whether they work.
The marketing pitch is that mosquitoes will be drawn to the devices by carbon dioxide (produced from yeast consuming the sugar), enter the device through tiny holes at the top, ingest some of the fluid inside, squeeze back out of the tube through the same holes, and then die due to the effects of a chemical (table salt, boric acid, garlic oil, etc.) dissolved in the fluid. Some of the companies claim their tubes will completely rid a yard of mosquitoes for months.
1. Spartan Mosquito Eradicator
First sold in 2016 as the Spartan Mosquito Bomb, the company says these tubes will eradicate mosquito populations for up to 90 days. The active ingredient is table salt. Company is based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was founded by Jeremy Hirsch (a Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches franchisee) and Chris Bonner (works at father’s chemical testing company). Here’s an ad. Here’s another. Here’s my 2019 review of the tube. The tube is now the focus of $5 million lawsuit. Company says it does $100 million in sales.
2. Sock-It Skeeter
Produced by the same company (AC2T, Inc.) that makes the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Here is a commercial about the device. I don’t think this is sold anymore.
3. Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator
Marketed as capable of eradicating mosquitoes for 90 days. Owners say that it has “more potent attractants in the lure for the traps than Spartan”. Company is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and owned by Jeff Clowdus (owner of JCL Tech LED lighting) and his brother Tim.
4. Mosquito XT
Company is based in Paragould, Arkansas, and owned by Kevin King, an insurance broker. Unlike all the other companies, Mr King wisely makes “makes no claims regarding the efficiency [sic] of use”.
5. Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech
This device is the same as the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator except that boric acid replaces table salt as the listed active ingredient. Company claims it kills mosquitoes for 30 days. Here are some ads. Despite claims, the device doesn’t appear to attract mosquitoes. Here’s a comparison of the Pro Tech and the Eradicator.
6. Skeeter Eater
Company says it eradicates mosquitoes for 90 days. Distributed by Copia Products (a manufacturer of baby products) in Memphis Tennessee and is owned by Wade Whitely. Made in Columbia.
7. Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station
Label lists garlic oil as the active ingredient. Described in ads as “highly effective” and providing “chemical free”, “round the clock”, “full-perimeter protection”. Company is part of Alliance Sports Group based in Grand Prairie, Texas. Owned by Larry Easterwood and family. My favorite line from a user’s review: “The light is a nice reminder it’s working.”
8. Mosquito Dynamiter
Company claims the device will eradicate up to 95% of mosquitoes for up to 90 days. Says mosquitoes “literally explode”. Device appears to be just a black version of its Wasp & Bee Sugar Trap. Made by Vic West Brands based in Austin, Texas, and owned by Nick Olynyk, an expert on junior hockey. Here’s an ad.
9. Mosquito TNT
This appears to be identical to the Mosquito Dynamiter but features a new sticker and a new color (red) for the holes through which the mosquitoes are supposed to enter and exit. Marketed by Tougher Than Tom, which seems to be a front for Simply Strive, a promotional company owned by Zachary Collins. Marketed to the Caucasian, Whole Foods demographic (per the casting call for the commercial shoot). Here’s an ad.
Do any of these devices eradicate mosquitoes?
Unlikely. For example, when scientists tested the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, they concluded the device did not work. It’s worth noting that none of the companies has released any efficacy data, with the exception of Spartan Mosquito which displays a graph on the box. Similarly, none of the companies has posted video evidence of mosquitoes being attracted to their devices when deployed in a yard. Instead, companies tend to use cartoon animations to convey how the devices should work.
Why are these companies allowed to sell these devices?
Given that these devices don’t seem to kill mosquitoes, one would expect that, eventually, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Federal Trade Commission would shut them down.
For example, the EPA has rules about the claims that pesticide companies can make. One rule is that a company is not permitted to use a product name that itself conveys an exaggerated or false claim (such as “Eradicator”). Another is that companies are not permitted to make false claims (such as “mosquitoes will explode”).
It’s especially curious why the EPA has not yet commenced enforcement actions on these companies given that its rules apply more strictly to products that claim to kill an organism, like mosquitoes, that can transmit disease-causing organisms (West Nile virus, Zika virus, etc.) to humans. This heightened concern is because consumers might rely (unwisely) on a device for protection from mosquito-borne diseases but end up at higher risk because the devices are ineffective. It’s the equivalent of selling bomb-detecting divining rods — people get blown up because gullible people are conned.
I’ve alerted the EPA about these companies, but it seems possible that the agency will only bring enforcement action if enough (influential?) people send complaints. So click here and make one. It would also help if people posted on Twitter and mentioned @EPAJustice as well as their state’s department of agriculture account.
The fastest way to get the EPA to act, however, would be for a science journalist at the Washington Post, New York Times, or NPR to cover them. In my opinion, the public would be very interested in a story about exploding mosquitoes, especially during mosquito season.
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