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Mosquito Control: What Really Works?

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Mosquito Control: What Really Works?
Photo by Lisa Jo Lupo

A vast array of devices are marketed as attracting, repelling, trapping or killing mosquitoes, but what are they and do they work?

The following information on some of the most common mosquito devices is based on research, reports, and publications of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and North Dakota State University (NDSU).

What it is : Citronella Candle (and other citronella-containing devices)
How it works : A citronella odor that is repellent to mosquitoes is emitted by the candle or other device.
Does it work? In areas of limited air movement, the citronella can keep mosquitoes at bay. However, according to NDSU, the candles, and other citronella-emitting devices, have been shown to be ineffective in open areas.

What it is : CO2 Trap
How it works : Emits carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes. When a mosquito flies near, the reverse fan sucks it into a collection bag.
Does it work? There is no scientific evidence that the device reduces the number of mosquitoes in an area or that it will reduce the chance of getting bitten. In fact, if placed near people, the device can draw mosquitoes into the area and potentially attract them to a CO2-emitting human prior to ever reaching the trap.

What it is : Light Trap
How it works : UV light attracts mosquitoes into an electrocuting or sticky-board trap, on which the insects are killed or caught.
Does it work? While these devices do lure a number of flying insects, there is no scientific evidence that the device reduces the number of mosquitoes in an area or that it will reduce the chance of getting bitten. In fact, if placed near people, the device can draw mosquitoes into the area and potentially attract them to a CO2-emitting human prior to ever reaching the trap.

What it is : Timed Spray
How it works : Tubing, installed around a fence line or perimeter of the home, disperses insecticide on a timed basis.
Does it work? According to the University of Florida (UF), "Any application that relies on time-released spraying without surveillance and decision making by humans, leads to inappropriate applications. ... [any] system that simply releases insecticides on a timer, whether it is a barrier application or to kill flying mosquitoes, lack the human element that is critical for effective and environmentally proper mosquito control. It is against good mosquito control practices to advocate automatic release of pesticides simply based on a timer."

What it is : Ultrasonic Device
How it works : A battery-operated device, worn by a person or set nearby, creates sounds to frighten away female mosquitoes (only the female bites humans).
Does it work? No claims have been scientifically proven to work, nor are the sounds proven to scare away the female. One manufacturer was charged with making false and unsubstantiated claims by the Federal Trade Commission which states that there is no evidence supporting product claims. According to UF, "There are other manufacturers of ultrasonic devices and there are several versions available in stores. These devices do not kill mosquitoes, repel biting mosquitoes, or protect humans or animals from any mosquito-borne disease."

What does work?

Repellents: Mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 that humans emit as well as our body warmth and odor. As such, repellents that are sprayed onto the body and clothing can provide some protection from these biting bugs. Read more about repellents.

Environmental Controls: Standing water is very attractive to mosquitoes and is essential to breeding. Controlling this and other environmental factors can help reduce mosquitoes around your home. Read more about Environmental Controls.

Read the full reports at:

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