Tag Archives: salt

Yeast-based mosquito control devices

If you’re even remotely interested in killing mosquitoes, you’ve probably seen ads for plastic tubes that are filled with water, sugar, and yeast. The marketing pitch is that the thousands of mosquitoes lurking in your yard will be drawn to the devices by carbon dioxide (emitted by yeast when it consumes sugar), then will all enter the device through tiny holes at the top, ingest some of the fluid inside (because mosquitoes forage for sweet liquids like nectar), 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. According to marketing claims, these tubes will completely rid your yard of mosquitoes for months.

Below are details on the eight devices currently marketed in the United States.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

First sold in 2016 as the Spartan Mosquito Bomb, the company claims these tubes will eradicate mosquito populations for up to 90 days. Active ingredient is table salt. Company is based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and was founded by Jeremy Hirsch (previously worked at restaurant/GTMO) and Chris Bonner (works at his father’s chemical testing company). It can be purchased on Amazon and in many rural feed and hardware stores across the country.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Sock-It Skeeter

Produced by the same company (AC2T, Inc.) that makes the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Likely also contains sodium chloride. Here is a commercial about the device. I’m not sure whether this device is still sold.

Sock-It Skeeter

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Company lists table salt and sodium lauryl sulfate as active ingredients. Like the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator it promises to eradicate mosquitoes for 90 days but 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 (graduate of Ambassador Bible College?). Available from Amazon and from company website. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Mosquito XT

Company lists table salt as the active ingredient. Company is based in Paragould, Arkansas, and owned by Kevin King, an insurance broker. Available only from company website. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Mosquito XT

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 95% of mosquitoes. It is sold in hardware/feed stores in most states, plus can be purchased directly from the company. Company plans to market it in Africa soon.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Skeeter Eater

Lists table salt as the active ingredient and claims to eradicate mosquitoes for 90 days. Box says purchases help support conservation of marine turtles. Distributed by Copia Products based in Memphis Tennessee, and owned by Wade Whitely; he seems to specialize in baby products. Sold at Walmart and Ace Hardware in Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. Manufactured in Columbia. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Skeeter Eater

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Label lists garlic oil as the active ingredient. Described 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. Available from company’s website and on Amazon. Refills are also available. I haven’t yet been able to find evidence that this device is registered in any of the states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Mosquito Dynamiter

Owner claims the device will eradicate up to 95% of mosquitoes in 15 days for up to 90 days. Says that mosquitoes “literally explode”. It appears to be 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. It is not owned by Grandpa Gus, who is an actor in Austin coached to be rural and trustworthy. Sold online through website and Amazon. And apparently in stores, too. It doesn’t seem to be registered in any of states that require permits for 25(b) devices.

Grandpa Gus's Mosquito Dynamiter

Do they work?

As far as I know, there’s no independent evidence that any of the devices reduce mosquito populations in yards. There are two publications, in fact, that such devices don’t work:

Aryaprema et al. 2020 concluded that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator had no effect on mosquito populations under laboratory conditions and outside.

Yee et al. 2020 showed that salt solutions and salt/sucrose solutions do not kill mosquitoes.

Why are they so popular?

My current explanation for the success of these devices is that companies can still thrive if only 5% of buyers are satisfied and become regular customers — the profit margin on a tube of sugar is just so high. But why would anyone, let alone 5%, think they actually work? My hypothesis is that if 5% or so of consumers have low mosquito numbers for some reason, most people will assume it’s because the device did it. E.g., they will not credit the insecticide the town has been spraying all summer, or fail to remember that a drought has eliminated stagnant water. Once a person is convinced that the tubes work, it is likely extremely hard for them to admit they were wrong.

But why don’t the remaining 95% complain? Some do, but this is where customer service comes in. If companies deal with dissatisfied buyers by sending them brand new tubes (“we want to make things right”, “maybe you got a faulty tube”, “maybe your water was bad”, etc.), a good portion of people will be won over by that outreach even if the tubes continue to do absolutely nothing. People who remain underwhelmed by the efficacy might just give up and write off the wasted money as a valuable learning experience.

More generally, it’s clear that most people are not terribly familiar with mosquito biology and what it takes to kill them. From reading several thousand Facebook comments about these devices, it’s fairly clear that people are really susceptible to anything that sounds technical, and that’s probably why advertising for these devices is filled with sciency jargon. The success of these devices seems especially high among people who use Facebook a lot. I’m not sure what that means.

Of course, if they worked as advertised they would save a million lives per year and we could all enjoy our yards without a single mosquito bite. And the CDC, WHO, and the American Mosquito Control Association would recommend them (they do not). The reality, sadly, is that there are no great ways to eliminate mosquitoes.

Are these devices regulated?

Marketers are not supposed to make false or misleading claims about pesticidal devices but I gather such rules are loosely enforced. I.e., state regulators should issue stop-sale orders on all these devices. And the FTC should block them from claiming that devices kill mosquitoes.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Here’s an early look at the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, the newest device made by the makers of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, which I reviewed in 2019.

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 ~5/32″ holes and a hook for hanging. And it’s filled with essentially the same ingredients (water, sugar, yeast). The only difference appears to be that the active ingredient is now boric acid instead of sodium chloride.

Per the labelling, the major differences are that the Pro Tech (1) works for 30 days instead of 90 and (2) “kills mosquitoes” instead of killing 95% of them.

The name, “Pro Tech”, is presumably to signify to consumers that the device is “professional technology”. This name is line with company’s description of the Pro Tech as “next-generation” and “most advanced“.

How does the Pro Tech kill mosquitoes?

The company asserts the following occur:

  1. mosquitoes are attracted to the tubes
  2. mosquitoes land on the tubes
  3. mosquitoes crawl around until they find the 5/32″ 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

A typical yard might have thousands of mosquitoes, so at any one time there might be a cloud of mosquitoes gathered around the devices, at least according to the company’s advertising. I have not been able to find a photograph that shows a cloud of mosquitoes around a Pro Tech.

Do Pro Techs kill mosquitoes?

The more important question is, “Does the Pro Tech kill mosquitoes in a yard?” The rephrasing of the question is important because a loophole in the EPA guidelines allows a company to claim a device kills an outdoor pest even if the efficacy experiment was done indoors. I’m not sure whether this is the case with the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, but it’s a concern. Laboratory experiments of attractive toxic sugar bait (ATSB) devices could easily overestimate actual efficacy for several reasons.

One worry is that boric acid can enter the vapor state. This means that mosquitoes trapped inside net cages with Pro Techs would be expected to die at a faster rate simply because boric acid is present in the air inside the cage, not because any of the mosquitoes actually squeezed through holes in the caps and ingested the liquid. Another huge problem is that when ATSB devices are tested inside cages, mosquitoes have no choice but to seek out the sugar inside the devices. So one might see mosquitoes entering the small holes of a Pro Tech inside cages even though mosquitoes in the real world would rarely do so. Under no circumstances would I recommend the EPA accept data from laboratory tests of ATSBs.

I’m not aware of any third-party evaluations of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, but given that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator does not work, it seems unlikely that the Pro Tech would work. I’ll update this page when peer-reviewed data are published.

UPDATE 1: the Pro Tech doesn’t attract mosquitoes

I used a security camera to test whether the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech even attracts mosquitoes. It does not. Details.

UPDATE 2: the Pro Tech could generate mosquitoes

The cap of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech accumulates stagnant water and organic matter, so the device could easily attract mosquitoes looking for a place to oviposit. The device could thus end up generating mosquitoes instead of killing them.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech with stagnant water in cap

UPDATE 3: the Pro Tech is being tested in Africa

Here’s a 10-min interview with Omar Arouna, CEO of Innovative Mosquito Control, Inc., in which he describes the field test of the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech in Togo. He implies that the mosquitoes that transmit malaria can be eliminated from Africa with these tubes.

Jeremy Hirsch, inventor of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Spartan Mosquito v. Colin Purrington

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 — the company does not release efficacy data, but claims it possesses them. My opinion is that the devices don’t kill mosquitoes, and the above review explains my reasoning. The owners, Jeremy Hirsch and Chris Bonner of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, seem particularly upset that I shared my review with state pesticide officials as well as federal regulatory agencies (EPA, FTC). The suit was brought to bankrupt and silence me, so it’s a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).

Here’s the first part of my motion to dismiss the lawsuit:

“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.”

The full brief is here (PDF).

UPDATES

Spartan Mosquito, Jeremy Hirsch, and Bonner Analytical Testing Company are being sued in New York District Court for fraud. Here is the 16-page complaint.

Scientists in Florida concluded the Spartan Mosquito Eradicators do not work.