Mosquito Control Devices: Controlling Blood Suckers Using Electrical and Mechanical Methods
Homeowners are always looking to host the perfect party. But they’ll never achieve outdoor living nirvana without dealing with that always unwelcome guest – the mosquito.
It’s time to face the music – most folks are mosquito magnets.
Carbon dioxide (Co2) is a universal mosquito attractant, drawing females from up to 35 meters. Then there’s heat. Built-in infra-red detectors enable these pesky blood suckers to sense body heat from up to 25 meters.
Mosquitoes are experts at tracking down hosts by zeroing in on lactic acid excretions and carbon dioxide emissions. Body odor also comes into play. Eating garlic may make a person repel others, and vitamin B12 may make him more healthy, but neither does anything to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Perfume, however, will attract biters. As will Limburger cheese (and stinky feet). Beer is also an attractant, so drunks are more likely to provide a blood meal than sober folks (although they probably won’t notice as much). Once they close in using these other vectors, however, mosquitoes react to visual stimuli (body movement and dark clothing) as much as anything.
Mosquitoes transmit disease pathogens in their saliva, through a separate tube from the one they suck blood with.
These bites are no more than irritants – or are they? In reality, mosquitoes can carry and transmit various diseases, from malaria to West Nile Virus. AIDs, however, is one disease they don’t transmit. In fact, mosquitoes actually digest the HIV virus.
An article published by Dr. Mark Fraden in The Annals of Internal Medicine entitled “Mosquitoes and Mosquito Repellents – A Clinician’s Guide” reveals the true impact of the mosquito on human health world-wide. Dr. Fraden states that “mosquitoes transmit disease to more than 700,000,000 people annually and will be responsible for the deaths of 1 of every 17 people currently alive”. Malaria itself causes as many as 3,000,000 deaths.
Mechanical and Electrical Mosquito Deterrents
There’s a lot of hype associated with marketing mosquito control devices. Many myths (and outright untruths) are circulating about mosquito defenses based on mechanical and electrical means. Of this type of mosquito control, a few of the most popular are ultrasonic devices and bug zappers.
There are two types of ultrasonic devices for taking out mosquitoes. The first is Larvasonic, a device which transmits sound energy into water, rupturing larvae air bladders and causing death. This product currently has limited effectiveness for residential use; it’s more likely to be used as part of a municipal mosquito control program.
The other device is meant to plug in to a home electrical outlet (a similar type can be carried on a person’s belt or clipped to a blouse). This device supposedly emulates the sonic frequency of a mosquito’s wing beats and is meant to repel the insect. Dr. Fraden mentions several studies that show these devices have been proven ineffective. One pioneering study pitted 5 ultrasonic devices ranging from 20 to 70 khz against 4 mosquito species. The devices had no effect on the flight of female mosquitoes.
Many people purchase and put their faith in bug zappers (black light devices that lure insects in, then kill them when they come in contact with an electrical grid) to control their insect pests. The American Mosquito Control Association, however, cites studies done by University of Notre Dame that show mosquitoes are only 4.1% to 6.4% of the daily kill of zappers over a season.
Even more startling, the majority of insects harvested by zappers proved to be non-pest species. Many were beneficial predators of mosquitoes and other pests.
Further, these species, which include certain moth and beetle species, make up a major part of the diet of songbirds. The reduced numbers of species used by songbirds as a food source has contributed to the decline of songbird populations in many areas of suburbia.
Of mosquitoes killed, only 0.13% were identified as female (the blood suckers).
That’s not all. Further studies indicated that mosquitoes were actually more attracted to human hosts than to the zapper devices.
It’s been estimated that 71 billion to 350 billion beneficial insects are killed annually by these machines in the United States alone.
One mechanical/electrical device that does work is the mosquito trap, such as those under the Mosquito Magnet brand name. These must be used correctly to be effective, however. Place them well away form human use areas such as barbecue pits, and turn them on 2 or 3 days before a party for maximum mosquito control.
In the final analysis, the best mechanical device for keeping mosquitoes away may be a portable fan (or a ceiling fan) blowing a breeze across the front porch or patio. A one mile an hour breeze is all that’s necessary to keep the pesky biters at bay.
What other defenses do homeowners have in their battle to protect their property (and themselves) from mosquitoes? Providing habitats for bats, purple martins and dragonflies may help. And controlling source breeding areas may be the easiest, least costly method. And don’t forget chemical and biological warfare.
Even with the proven ineffectiveness of some control methods, it may be worth a homeowner’s time to investigate home-based mosquito control. After all, who wants to be snack food for a bug?