Tag Archives: trap

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech in tree

Does the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech attract mosquitoes?

Short answer: No.

There are currently eight devices on the market that claim to lure and kill mosquitoes with fermenting sugar solutions, but only one, the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. That registration is required because the active ingredient, boric acid, is a regulated pesticide. As a result, all claims made by Spartan Mosquito about the device must be true.

This post is about one those claims, that mosquitoes will gather around the device in large numbers. The claim is made on the device’s label (below), on the instruction sheet (below), on the company’s website, and in the EPA registration document, where it’s mentioned five times.

It is, of course, a claim that is central to how the device is supposed to work: the mosquitoes in a yard are somehow drawn to the contents of the tubes, they squeeze through the holes in the cap, crawl down to the fluid, ingest some fluid, then crawl back out of the tubes. They die later from the effects of boric acid. It’s an elaborate sequence of events.

What causes the mosquitoes to gather?

Unfortunately, nowhere does Spartan Mosquito explain exactly why the Pro Tech would cause mosquitoes to gather. But the company says the device is the “next generation” of the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, and for that device the company claims mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide produced by sugar and yeast inside the tube. Although sugar and yeast are not specifically listed as ingredients for the Pro Tech, the contents appear to be sugar and yeast.

Evaluating the claim

The easiest way to determine whether mosquitoes gather around the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech is to just look. I’ve deployed three devices (one with label removed) in my yard this summer and, to date, I have not seen any mosquitoes near the devices. There are also no mosquitoes inside the devices. For the record, I know what mosquitoes look like and have thousands in my yard.

The above technique has two problems, however. The first is that one has to be close to the devices to observe mosquitoes, and it’s theoretically possible that the instant a human approaches, the mosquitoes abandon the device and seek out the human, instead. I don’t actually think this is a real concern because I can recognize a mosquito from quite far away, plus I can use binoculars so that the distance is even greater. The second problem is that people might not believe me when I say I observed zero mosquitoes gathered around the tubes — people are just far more inclined to believe the label’s claim.

To address both of these concerns, I decided to use a security camera to record the area around a Pro Tech. Then I could examine the footage and make it publicly available to those who might be skeptical. Here’s a photograph of how I arranged everything:

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech with security camera

Below is a 15-second time-lapse to show that small insects such as ants were easily visible, even at night. I think they are Prenolepis imparis, which are 3-4 mm long —mosquitoes are larger and thus would be detectable even in flight.

On the day that I set it up (September 2nd, 2020) I counted over a dozen mosquitoes (all Aedes albopictus) on my arms and legs within 30 seconds. According to the instruction sheet, the device begins to work instantly, as soon as water is added, so an hour of remote, video observation should be a sufficient amount of time to evaluate the attraction claim.

Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech begins working instantly

To satisfy potential critics, however, I collected footage for over a week, ending observations on September 10th. The mosquitoes were still plentiful on the day I published this post (September 12th), so there were plenty of mosquitoes in my yard for a fair test.

Results

During 183 hours of footage, I couldn’t find a single mosquito on or near the device.

It’s theoretically possible that a mosquito landed on the far side of the tube (which I couldn’t view) and I missed it, but I think I can safely conclude that large numbers of mosquitoes did not “gather”, as per the labelling claim. I’ve also continued to observe the footage beyond the 183 hours, but it seemed like a waste of time to continue. The device was simply not attracting mosquitoes. There’s only so much boredom I can endure.

Discussion

If the Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech does not attract mosquitoes, at all, I’m left confused. Is it possible the EPA didn’t require Spartan Mosquito to provide experimental proof for this label claim? I see three explanations.

First, I’m wondering whether the EPA viewed the claim as “advisory” language:

“Advisory statements are intended to be informational. They provide information to the product user on such topics as product characteristics and how to reduce risk and maximize efficacy while using the product. Such statements are acceptable as long as they do not conflict with mandatory statements, and are not false or misleading, or otherwise violate statutory or regulatory provisions.” [bolding added]

https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-labels/label-review-training-module-1-label-basics-page-26

I.e., maybe the EPA reviewer deemed the “mosquitoes will gather” statement as somehow separate from the core efficacy claim (“kills mosquitoes”) and thus didn’t request proof. Regardless, the last part of the above passage still requires that such advisory statements are not false or misleading.

Second, perhaps the “mosquitoes will gather” claim is based on data from a cage experiment conducted inside a laboratory? I.e., if large numbers of mosquitoes are trapped in a container with a Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech, maybe they do gather around the device simply because there’s nothing else for mosquitoes to land on. If that’s the case, however, it would seem highly misleading to imply (on all the labelling) to consumers that mosquitoes will gather around the tubes when they are deployed outside. 100% of the marketing suggests that the device attracts mosquitoes in yards.

Third, if the data supplied to the EPA was, in fact, from an outdoor experiment, maybe it’s just untrustworthy. I.e., from an experiment that didn’t have controls or that lacked meaningful replication. Or cherry-picked from multiple experiments where all but one showed no effect. There are lots of way to conduct a bad experiment and to pitch the results as somehow fantastic. I’ve heard this was (and is) an issue for the Eradicator.

EXTRA: What about the “kills mosquitoes” claim?

To gain approval for its label claim, Spartan Mosquito must have supplied some sort of data to the EPA that confirmed the device could kill mosquitoes. But if the device doesn’t attract mosquitoes present in a yard, how could it possibly kill them?? I’m speculating here, but if Spartan Mosquito did, indeed, test the devices inside cages, they might get a positive finding. That’s because the devices contain an aqueous solution of boric acid (approximate 0.17%, I think), and thus one would expect some boric acid to be present in the fumes that escape through the holes in the cap. Those fumes could conceivably poison the mosquitoes trapped in the cage. The lethality of the fumes might be extremely low, but I’d wager the effect would be measurable when compared to a control cage that lacked those toxic fumes.

Does boric acid evaporate? Yes, the main source of boron in the atmosphere is due to evaporation of boric acid from oceans (Park and Schlesinger 2002). More generally, evaporation of acids from aqueous solutions can even be used to retard bacterial and fungal growth of meat.

It would be interesting know what Spartan Mosquito (or the researcher it hired) used as the experimental control treatment. One way to bias the experiments in favor of finding an effect is to simply use empty or water-only tubes as controls. This is because fermentation itself causes acids to form, and those acids would be expected to enter the vapor phase and permeate the experimental cages. That’s in addition to the ethanol that enters the vapor phase, of course. I.e., mosquitoes trapped with a tube of fermenting sugar might have low survivorship because they were bathed in vapors that are mildly deleterious. Again, such an effect would have nothing to do with mosquitoes squeezing through the holes and ingesting poison. And, of course, the “vapors killing the mosquitoes” effect wouldn’t work at all when tubes are deployed in a yard.

If Spartan Mosquito did, in fact, test the device in cages, it would seem best to constrain its claims to “causes mosquitoes in cages to gather” and “kills mosquitoes in cages”. Then if consumers had a problem a mosquito outbreak in their cages, perhaps the Pro Tech would be an attractive option.

EPA guidelines

I was curious so I dug around in the guidelines to see what type of experiments need to be done to establish efficacy. Here’s a screenshot from, “Product Performance Test Guidelines OPPTS 810.3000 — General Considerations for Efficacy of Invertebrate Control Agents“, that seems relevant:

The wording in the red-boxed sections suggests that the EPA allows laboratory experiments in place of experiments under actual conditions (outside). I couldn’t find any directive from the EPA that required a company to clarify the conditions under which the efficacy data were collected.

Again, I don’t have any information on what type of experiment Spartan Mosquito conducted. The above is just to indicate that it may be possible that they didn’t conduct the test outdoors.

What does Spartan Mosquito say?

In general, when consumers ask the company on Facebook how the device works, the company directs them to this webpage or this Facebook video. Neither has information on how the device works or how well it works. The company simply deletes any question it does not want to answer, and often blocks skeptical users who ask probing questions. If you doubt me, try asking a scientific question on the company’s Facebook page. For example, “What causes mosquitoes to gather around the tubes?” Or try, “Do you have any videos of mosquitoes gathering around the tubes when device is deployed in a yard?” I’d also like to see them answer, “Under what conditions was the Pro Tech tested?”

The only details the company provides about efficacy is that device kills 95% of mosquitoes.

Which is hard to believe.

Footage

Below is the video, separated into 16 segments due to size limits on YouTube.

https://youtu.be/X9P4VNVw9HQ
https://youtu.be/_w1xKjR6dnM

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.

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.