Tag Archives: scam

Yeast-based mosquito control devices

In the United States, seven companies are selling tubes filled with water, sugar, and yeast for mosquito control. 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 (e.g., by exploding) 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 rid a yard of mosquitoes for months. I summarize the devices below.

1. Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Contains sugar, yeast, and salt. First sold in 2016 as the Spartan Mosquito Bomb, the company says these tubes will eradicate mosquito populations for up to 90 days. 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). I reviewed the device in 2019.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

2. Sock-It Skeeter

Contains sugar, yeast, and salt. 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.

Sock-It Skeeter

3. Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

Contains sugar, yeast, citric acid, calcium carbonate, salt, and sodium lauryl sulfate (the latter two ingredients are supposed to be the active ingredients). 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. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Donaldson Farms Mosquito Eliminator

4. Mosquito XT

Contains sugar, yeast, baking soda, and salt. Company is based in Paragould, Arkansas, and owned by Kevin King, an insurance broker. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Mosquito XT

5. Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

Contains sugar, yeast, and boric acid. Company claims it kills mosquitoes for 30 days. I reviewed the device in 2020. Here’s a comparison of the Pro Tech and the Eradicator.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech

6. Aion Mosquito Barrier

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. Company says the tubes repel mosquitoes for 90 days. Marketed by Aion Products of Cordova, Tennessee. Formerly marketed by Copia Products as The Mosquito Eradicator. Claims to be 25(b)-exempt.

7. Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

Contains sugar, yeast, citric acid, calcium carbonate, and garlic oil. 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.” Here’s a YouTube review that concludes device does not kill mosquitoes. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides.

Skeeter Hawk Backyard Bait Station

8. Grandpa Gus’s Mosquito Dynamiter

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. Company claims the device will eradicate up to 95% of mosquitoes for up to 90 days. Says mosquitoes “literally explode”. The containers are wasp traps made in China by Xiamen Consolidates Manufacture And Trading Co., Ltd. Here’s an ad. This device doesn’t appear to be registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides. Grandpa Gus is based in Austin, Texas and is owned by Nick Olynyk, an expert on junior hockey. UPDATE: device is no longer for sale, per owner.

Grandpa Gus's Mosquito Dynamiter

9. Tougher Than Tom’s Mosquito TNT

Contains sugar, yeast, and table salt. The containers are the same wasp traps used by Grandpa Gus’s (above). Not surprisingly, they kill honey bees. Per casting calls for the commercials, the target demographic is white folks who shop at Whole Foods (I’m not making this up); the ads target only women, too. Here’s an ad. This device doesn’t appear to registered in any of the states that require registration of “minimum risk” pesticides. Exactly who owns Tougher Than Tom is unclear, but it seems to be managed by an Austin marketing firm called Simply Strive headed by Zachary S. Collins, an expert on autonomous media buyers. Olynyk and Collins apparently first collaborated on Real Deal Dating LLC, and both are officers in Sask Connect Marketing LLC.

Do any of these work?

Unlikely.

For example, when scientists tested the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, they concluded the device did not work. And a separate team of scientists have concluded that salt (an ingredient in most of these devices) does not kill mosquitoes.

It’s worth noting that none of the companies has released any efficacy data. Similarly, none of the companies has posted video evidence of mosquitoes being attracted to their devices when deployed in a yard. And none of the companies show mosquitoes dying when the device is deployed outside.

Why are these devices only in the United States?

There are mosquitoes all over the world, so it’s curious that there are so many yeast-and-sugar contraptions for sale in the United States and nowhere else. It’s possible that Americans are just more likely to believe marketing hype even when it’s too good to be true. For example, Americans are less skeptical than people in Britain and Australia. And apparently Americans are more susceptible to placebo effects, so once we buy things we tend to really believe they work even when they do nothing (and via confirmation bias then ignore all facts that undermine that belief). Plus our science literacy is terrible (only 28% are literate) so it might not be obvious to a lot of Americans that salt isn’t going to make mosquitoes explode. Another explanation is that regulatory agencies in the United States (Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Trade Commission, for example) are overwhelmed by the volume of charlatans operating their hustles and can only take the most egregious to court.

Probably a combination of all of the above.

Spartan Mosquito Eradicator

Class action suit over Spartan Mosquito Eradicators

Spartan Mosquito is facing a $5 million class-action lawsuit for falsely advertising that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators kill mosquitoes.

The device is a plastic tube filled with water, sugar, yeast, and salt. The company advertises that mosquitoes are drawn inside the device, drink the fluid, exit, then die. The claim is that up to 95% of mosquitoes in a yard are killed for up to 90 days. I reviewed the device in 2019.

Below is a photograph of the founders, Chris Bonner (orange shirt) and Jeremy Hirsch (blue shirt), demonstrating the Eradicator.

Chris Bonner and Jeremy Hirsch

Here’s a PDF of the complaint. Some additional files are available at Court Listener. I have all the files if you are interested.

Select quotations from the complaint

  • “… the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is a complete scam.”
  • “Product is ineffective for mosquito control because it does not kill mosquitoes …”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”

Trial

One reason why Spartan Mosquito seems likely to lose is that scientists have confirmed that salt (the “active” ingredient) doesn’t kill mosquitoes. And another team of scientists has confirmed that Spartan Mosquito Eradicators do not control mosquitoes. So there’s rather good evidence the tubes don’t work. It’s likely the scientists who conducted the studies will be called to testify.

The attorney who filed the class-action, Yitzchak Kopel, seems to specialize on companies that make false mosquito-control claims.

I plan on attending the trial.

  • Spartan Mosquito is being sued by the non-profit, Remember Everyone Deployed, for copyright infringement (and etc.). Spartan Mosquito now runs a similar website and Facebook page. Details.
  • Spartan Mosquito is being sued by Lights On Distributors, Bryan Carter, and Think Webstore (the ad agency responsible for Spartan Mosquito’s success) for breach of contract, etc. Documents claim, in part, that Spartan Mosquito hid profits by funneling “significant sums of money” to the company’s treasurer, Lady Josephine Hirsch (wife of co-founder, Jeremy Hirsch). Details.
  • There’s a NASCAR suit involving breach of contract, etc. Brennan Poole is also named in suit. Details.
  • Spartan Mosquito is suing me for alerting the EPA. Not sure when the trial will be held. I plan on attending. Details.

There may be other lawsuits that I don’t know about. For example, the company posted on its Facebook page that a group of scientists at Purdue University is suing Spartan Mosquito, perhaps over the $500,000 prize for a contest announced on Facebook (I’m guessing Spartan Mosquito doesn’t want to pay up). I’ve also been informed that the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating Spartan Mosquito, so perhaps Federal charges will materialize at some point. But the latter might relate to the company’s other device, the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech.

I’ll update this page as cases work their way through court system. If you have information on any of the above, please contact me.

Bag of water hanging from ceiling

15 mosquito-control strategies and devices that don’t work

Health officials love to remind people to use DEET and other CDC-approved repellents, but they tend to shy away from telling the public what doesn’t work. As a result, millions of people adopt ineffective techniques and gimmicky devices. These people are not only subjecting themselves to annoying mosquito bites, they are increasing the likelihood that family members will contract West Nile virus disease, Zika virus disease, eastern equine encephalitis, and other mosquito-borne diseases. So I thought I’d make a list of the top myths and scams just in case skeptical people are Googling.

1. Mosquito-repelling plants

Despite the claims of thousands of posts on Facebook and Pinterest, there are no plants that, when planted around your yard, repel mosquitoes. And, just to be clear, the plant marketed as “mosquito plant” does not repel mosquitoes. I know this is deeply upsetting news to many plant fans. I’m just the messenger.

2. Ultrasonic devices and apps

None of these have been found to work (details). It’s too bad. It would be really cool if they did. The FTC has taken some companies to court. There is, however, a device called The Mosquito that is effective at repelling teenagers.

3. Bags of water suspended from ceiling

This belief is common in Mexico, Central America, Spain, and certain pockets in the U.S. south. It’s a variation of the equally-ineffective tradition of hanging bags of water to repel house flies. Some people insist that you have to add coins (and just the right number).

4. Listerine

Nope — even when mixed with other ingredients like beer and epsom salts, spraying Listerine around your yard won’t repel mosquitoes. Just another internet rumor started by somebody with too much free time.

5. Citronella candles

Citronella candles only seem to work if you surround yourself with a lot of them, ideally in a protected area so that wind doesn’t dissipate the smoke. Similarly, Tiki torches that burn citronella-laced oil are ineffective. They smell great, though. The pleasant smell most likely contributes to the strong placebo effect. People absolutely believe they work even though they do not.

6. Bounce dryer sheets

Per one study fungus gnats (which don’t bite) were mildly repelled by dryer sheets. I’d wager these sheets might actually be attractive to mosquitoes (some species home in on perfumes).

7. Wrist bands with natural oils

At best, wrist bands will reduce the number of mosquito bites on your wrist simply because they can’t bite through the plastic. But they will not emit enough volatile compounds to shield the rest of you. NB: currently there are no wristbands that contain DEET or other CDC-approved repellent. Details.

8. Stickers laced with natural oils

Stickers only prevent mosquitoes from biting the flesh directly underneath the sticker. You’d need an awful lot of stickers for full protection. If you can rock that look, I say go for it. Note, same conclusion for the stickers that claim to infuse your bloodstream with B1.

9. Garlic

Eating garlic does not deter mosquitoes. Just deters other people.

10. Vitamin B1, B6, or B12 pills or patches

Nope, nope, and nope. Details. More details.

11. Mozi-Q pills

Just another scam. Details.

12. Bug Zappers

These devices are adored by people because they make a satisfying crackle when an insect meets its end. Indeed, people who own these seem to delight in the attention these things get when friends come over in the evening. But if you dump all the carcasses on a table and sort them (good family fun), you’ll find that only a very small fraction of the victims will be mosquitoes. In one study, 0.22% were mosquitoes. Mostly you’ve just electrocuted thousands of small, defenseless moths and night-active beetles. That’s a lot of bad karma. More details.

13. Dynatraps

These don’t appear to work. I’ve tried two and can confirm. If you’re still on the fence read some of the many 1-star reviews on Amazon.

14. Tubes of yeast and sugar

Contraptions filled with yeast and sugar are really good at attracting and killing fruit flies, ants, and wasps. They will not control your mosquitoes.

15. Bats and birds

Sadly, it’s a myth that constructing a bat or bird hotel in your backyard will eliminate your mosquito problem. Bats and birds will certainly eat mosquitoes under some circumstances (e.g., when they are caged with nothing else) but under natural conditions they prefer to eat larger insects. You should still construct bird and bat houses, though. Details.

More information

If you have questions, email me.