Tag Archives: scam

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 — The Mosquito Eradicator

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. The only publication on the topic (Aryaprema et al. 2020) concluded that the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator had no effect.

I’m aware of several other experiments that are not yet published and I’ll update this page when they are.

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.

Contact

If you know of any devices I should add to the above list, please contact me. I’m especially interested in devices that might be marketed outside the United States.

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).

Class action suit over Spartan Mosquito Eradicators

AC2T, Inc., 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. The complaint seeks court orders to stop the defendants’ illegal practices and for company to undertake a corrective advertising campaign. $5,000,000 is also sought. Here’s a taste of the complaint:

“The Spartan Mosquito Eradicator is a complete scam. As explained below, the Product is ineffective for mosquito control because it does not kill mosquitoes or decrease mosquito populations. Worse, 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 you’d like more information, get in touch with Bursor & Fisher.

Note that AC2T, Inc., is the official name for Spartan Mosquito. Jeremy Hirsch is the inventor and co-owner. The Bonner Analytical Testing Company is owned by Chris Bonner, the other owner of Spartan Mosquito.

Here’s my 2019 review of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. Recent experimental evidence confirms that the device does not work at all. The company has also just released the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, which looks like the Eradicator but has boric acid instead of salt.


UPDATE

Jeremy Hirsch and Spartan Mosquito are both represented by Edward Patrick Boyle, and Bonner Analytical Testing Company is represented by Daniel R. Benson. All three named parties have been granted extensions until August 31 to respond to the complaint.

It’s interesting that the lawsuit isn’t just against Spartan Mosquito. And interesting that Jeremy Hirsch is named (as a person) but Chris Bonner (the other founder) is not. Why omit Chris Bonner but instead name “Bonner Analytical Testing Company”?

Is it possible that Bonner Analytical is financially weak and thus might be more willing to settle? Potentially relevant here is that the company received between $150,000 and $350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program. Also, Chris Bonner rarely does any speaking role for the company, which to me indicates he’s happy to get the millions of dollars in profits but is tad embarrassed to be selling a scam.

Jeremy Hirsch’s wife (Josephine Tatum Hood-Hirsch) and Chris Bonner’s wife (Karen Lambert Bonner) also work for Spartan Mosquito. It will be interesting, from a discovery standpoint, to see how the judge deals with spousal privilege.

Aug 31 2020 Update

Jeremy Hirsch files motion to dismiss (31-page PDF).

October 2020 Update

The class-action suit has been withdrawn … and refiled. Blurbs of the new complaint are at classaction.org and topclassactions.com.