According to Science, Ultrasound Mosquito Repellent Doesn’t Work

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There’re many kinds of mosquito repellents in the market, ranging from the old-fashioned mosquito coils to even the latest mosquito bracelet.

One of the most common and effective ingredients is DEET, which stands for N,N Diethyl-meta-toluamide.

Anyone who has been in the army would be familiar with a product called Off!, the second most common insect repellent we use (and swear by) after the army-issued insect repellent. That is one of the products that contains DEET.

However, there have been claims that some people might be allergic to DEET, or that children should not use it.

These concerns have made people turn to repellents made from natural ingredients, and some even more kiasu ones have even moved on to use “high-tech” repellent like an ultrasound mosquito repellent.

The premise of an ultrasound mosquito repellent is pretty simple: the device makes a sound that “imitates the sound of a dragonfly, the mosquito’s natural predator, thus keeping them away.” That sounds plausible, almost revolutionary, but here’s the thing: studies have shown that they don’t work.

You see, in the past, people would buy devices that emit this sound to repel mosquitoes. In fact, a radio station once emitted the sound in its background, therefore tuning to it will not only provide you with songs but repel mosquitoes as well.

In recent years, with the high penetration of smartphone users, there are apps that promise to emit these sounds and repel those pesky pests.

However, in American Mosquito Control Association’s website, they rebuked this in their FAQs with this simple, but highly important, information.

At least 10 studies in the past 15 years have unanimously denounced ultrasonic devices as having no repellency value whatsoever. Yet, consumers flock in droves to hardware stores to purchase these contraptions. Why? The discovery that mosquitoes locate mates in mating swarms via wing beat frequency generated a great deal of research into ultrasound as a potential source of environmentally-friendly control. Yet, all attempts to affect mosquito behavior by ultrasound have fizzled, despite enormous amounts of money spent upon research and development.

To be sure, the clever, high-tech, and imperceptible (by humans) use of ultrasound proved to be an exceedingly effective marketing tool for the repeller manufacturers. Homeowners were urged to buy ultrasonic repellers and the like to rid their houses of pests without the need to inhale “even one breath of poisonous spray”. This appeal to the public’s chemophobia, while extremely effective in diverting attention away from proven preventive and control measures (and toward their repeller products), has undermined an unbiased review of the subject by consumers desperate for a clean, effective, nonchemical means of mosquito control.

Unfortunately, no such miracle cure exists. A pioneering study testing five different ultrasonic devices against four mosquito species convincingly demonstrated that ultrasound in the 20-70 kHz range used by these devices had no effect on reorienting flight by female mosquitoes either toward or away from human subjects. Additional tests have shown that sound generators capable of a wide range of frequencies were also ineffective in repelling mosquitoes. The fact is that these devices just do not work – marketing claims to the contrary.

The danger lies in the false sense of security that people might have upon having one of these devices (or apps). In fact, this isn’t the only product that is gimmicky—there are several other products, working on almost the same principle (selling a story instead of a proven method), like machines that emit carbon dioxide (to attract the mosquitoes).

The best repellent so far? Check out reliable sources like NEA website and most importantly, do your part in implementing the 10-minute 5-step Mozzie Wipeout.

Featured Image: tkemot / Shutterstock.com

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