The Ultimate Guide to Ultrasonic Pest Repellers - Do They Really Work?

For many years I’ve seen ads for some form of electronic pest control, whether they’re called electronic, ultrasonic, subsonic... or whatever. The testimonials seem to always say “I plugged it in and the pests just disappeared. It’s a miracle.” Yet I understand that the research continually says these products don’t work effectively. So, what gives? I finally decided to look into this apparent discrepancy myself in depth and find out the truth.

Speaking of truth, I must tell you up front that I own a pest control company. I do pest control and have for about 25 years. Believe me when I say that these devices don’t threaten my business. They never have. Yet I’m a very practical guy. If I can determine that they do indeed work, I’ll either find a way to use them to improve my pest control service for my customers, or I’ll find a way to sell them to those who wish to do pest control themselves.

On the other hand, if they don’t work I’ll find a way to tell as many people as I can. I have nothing against do-it-yourselfers – if they learn the facts and do pest control safely and effectively. But I am against fraudulent products that claim to do things that they cannot do.

Having said that, here is what I’ve learned:

Manufacturers
Manufacturers of these devices rarely go to the trouble and expense of having them tested by an impartial researcher. For many manufacturers “tested” or “laboratory tested” means the device has been tested in a lab like Underwriters Laboratory (http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/ ) for potential hazards like electrical shock.

Different types of repellers
Several different types of electronic pest control devices exist. Humans hear in the 20-20,000Hz range. 19 Ultrasonic pest control devices transmit above that range, and subsonic devices broadcast below that range. Some devices only broadcast a single frequency, some on multiple frequencies. Some vary the frequency. A few plug into the electrical system of the structure and claim to alter it. Nearly all these variations have been included in the research at one time or another.

Limitations of ultrasonic
Ultrasonic frequencies diminish much more rapidly than audible sounds as the distance from their source increases.20 According to the Texas Extension Service “About half of ultrasonic energy is dissipated at 15 feet. None is detectable at 30 feet. Furthermore, objects placed in the way of ultrasound waves block the sound, creating shadows where pests are unaffected.”18

About pests
According to the research I’ve read, many pests ‘hear’ roughly the same frequencies as humans. The point is that if these devices broadcast a sound that really annoyed pests, they would probably also annoy humans.

The research
Research into the effectiveness of electronic pest control devices has been going on for since the 1930’s. Not all that research is available on the Internet. Due to lack of time, I’m limited to the research I can find on the Internet. Luckily much of the research from the last 25 years is available online.

Table of results
Pest Research Repellent Ability? Practical for pest control?
Ants 2003 - Huang, Subramanyam, & Clark7 no no
Ants 2004 - Huang, & Subramanyam8 no no
Birds 1992 - Erickson, Marsh & Salmon14 no no
Fleas 1989 - Koehler, Leppla, & Patterson4 no no
Fleas 1990 - Hinkle, Koehler, & Patterson5 no no
Mammals 1990 - Koehler, Marsh & Salmon15 no no
Mosquitoes 1985 - Foster & Lutes21 no no
Mosquitoes 2007 - Enayati, Hemingway & Garner20 no no
Mosquitoes 2000 - Sylla, Lell  & Kremsner16 no no
Moths 2004 - Huang & Subramanyam8 no no
Rats & Mice 1990 - Koehler, Marsh & Salmon15 no no
Roaches 1983 - Ballard & Gold1 no no
Roaches 1984 - Gold, Decker & Vance2 no no
Roaches & fleas 1986 - Koehler, Patterson, Webb3 no no
Roaches 2006 - Huang & Subramanyam10 no no
Roaches & mosquitoes 2007 - Subramanyam & Zurek11 no no
Roaches 1995 - Rust, Owens, Reierson6 no no

 

Please read through the research listed at the end of this article. In many cases I’ve included specific quotes taken from conclusions reached by the researchers. Such as:

“Tests of individual devices against Ae. aegypti also failed to show a repellent effect”19

“… the ultrasound device used was not effective against mosquitoes in this strictly controlled trial.”16

“There have been so many failures reported with high-frequency sound that little can be said in favor of such devices.”15

“A review of efficacy studies conducted and published by a number of researchers fails to demonstrate the usefulness of such bird control devices.”14

“The result failed to provide evidence that ultrasonic technology could be used as an effective pest management tool to repel or eliminate the German cockroach.”10

“…our data failed to show any significant repelling abilities of all three ultrasonic devices…”7

"In these tests, ultrasound neither controlled nor repelled test insects..."2

I didn’t pick and choose the research. I simply found what was available. Please note that this article is not intended to live up to academic standards. I simply want to find the truth and present the evidence for those who are interested.

I did not use research from labs not associated with a university.

I included a link to the research so you can read it for yourself.

Government Warnings
In 2001 the Federal Trade Commission warned manufacturers of these ultrasonic pest control devices to examine their marketing and provide scientific evidence to support their claims.12 In 2003 they required such evidence. 13

Common Sense
Common sense says that if these products actually worked, they would threaten existing pest control businesses. That hasn’t happened even though these devices have been around for 30+ years.

Common sense says that if these devices worked well, word of mouth would spread the news quickly as friends told friends the good news. Have you ever heard from anyone you know personally that these devices worked well? Neither have I.

Conclusion
I can find no credible evidence that ultrasonic pest control devices work. Nor is there any such evidence for any electronic pest control device. These devices are a scam. As this article clearly shows, 25 years of credible research says electronic devices don’t work for pest control. Any popularity is based on marketing rather than performance. If you’ve been considering these devices, save your money or prepare to be seriously disappointed.


Citations
1) The Response of Male German Cockroaches to Sonic and Ultrasonic Sound
Authors: James B. Ballard and Roger E. Gold
Source: Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 93-96
From the abstract: "Male German cockroaches [Blatella germanica (L.)] were exposed to two frequencies of sonic and five frequencies of subsonic sine waves for several days in choice boxes. No significant difference was found in the distribution of German cockroaches in choice boxes after exposure to the sound frequencies tested."
Link

2) Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae)
Authors: Gold, R. E.; Decker, T. N.; Vance, A. D.
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 77, Number 6, December 1984, pp. 1507-1512(6)
From the abstract: "In these tests, ultrasound neither controlled nor repelled test insects..."
Link

3) Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control
Authors: Koehler, Philip G.; Patterson, Richard S.; Webb, J. C.
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 79, Number 4, August 1986 , pp. 1027-1031(5)
From the abstract: "Results indicate that manufacturer claims of cockroach and flea control with ultrasound devices cannot be substantiated."
Link

4) Circadian Rhythm of Cat Flea (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae) Locomotion Unaffected by Ultrasound
Authors: Koehler, Philip G.; Leppla, Norman C.; Patterson, Richard S.
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 82, Number 2, April 1989 , pp. 516-518(3)
From the abstract: "The circadian rhythm of these fleas was not affected by an ultrasonic pest control device."
Link

5) Egg Production, Larval Development, and Adult Longevity of Cat Fleas (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae) Exposed to Ultrasound
Authors: Hinkle, Nancy C.; Koehler, Philip G.; Patterson, Richard S.
Source: Journal of Economic Entomology, Volume 83, Number 6, December 1990 , pp. 2306-2309(4)
Taken from the abstract: "Adult cat fleas, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche),on cats (Felis catus) were exposed to emissions from an ultrasonic flea collar worn by the cat. No significant differences were found in total numbers of eggs produced per day "
Link

6) Understanding and controlling the German cockroach
Authors: By Michael K. Rust, John M. Owens, Donald A. Reierson
From the abstract: "In these tests, ultrasound neither controlled nor repelled test insects..."
Link

7) Laboratory and field trials with commercial ultrasonic devices against three ant species.
Authors: Huang, F., Bh. Subramanyam, and J. Clark. 2003. Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology 19: 25 -28.
Quote: “…our data failed to show any significant repelling abilities of all three ultrasonic devices…”
Link

8) Behavioral and reproductive effects of ultrasound on Plodia interpunctella (Hübner).
Authors: Huang, F., and Bh. Subramanyam. 2004. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 113: 157–164.
Link

9) Book: Addicted to Placebos: Understanding Science and Society
Author: Alan J. Scott, Ph.D. 2006 - 513 pages
Quote: "Research on the effectiveness of several types of electronic pest control devices has shown that cockroaches are not repelled by ultrasonic sounds, vibrations, electro-magnetic forces or or pulsed electronic signals."
Link

10) Lack of repellency of three commercial ultrasonic devices to the German cockroach (Blattodea: Blattellidae).
Authors: Huang, F., and Bh. Subramanyam. 2006. Insect Science 13: 61-66.
From the abstract: “The result failed to provide evidence that ultrasonic technology could be used as an effective pest management tool to repel or eliminate the German cockroach.”
Link

11) Responses of mosquitoes and German cockroaches to ultrasound emitted from a random ultrasonic generating device.
Authors: Ahmad, A., Bh. Subramanyam, and L. Zurek. 2007. Entomologia Source: Experimentalis et Applicata 123: 25-33.
From the abstract: “Ultrasound from the random ultrasonic device failed to repel mosquitoes and German cockroaches at the different frequency ranges evaluated.”
Link

12) FTC Warns Manufacturers and Retailers of Ultrasonic Pest control Devices - 2001
Link

13) Marketer of Pest Control Devices Required to Provide Support for Claims - 2003
Link

14) High Frequency Sound Devices Lack Efficacy in Repelling Birds - 1992
Authors: Erickson, Marsh & Salmon
From the abstract: “A review of efficacy studies conducted and published by a number of researchers fails to demonstrate the usefulness of such bird control devices.”
Link

15) Frightening Methods & Devices/Stimuli to Prevent Mammal Damage – a Review - 1990
Authors: Koehler, Marsh & Salmon
Quote: “…while rodents may temporarily avoid areas "covered" with high-frequency sounds, rodents habituate to them and will feed or nest alongside the operating devices.”
Quote: “There have been so many failures reported with high-frequency sound that little can be said in favor of such devices.”
Link

16) A blinded, controlled trial of an ultrasound device as mosquito repellent. - 2000
Authors: Sylla, Lell & Kremsner
Quote: “There was no significant difference in landing rate between the houses with ultrasound device and the houses with placebo for any species of mosquito. Thus the ultrasound device used was not effective against mosquitoes in this strictly controlled trial.”
Link

17) Acoustic methods of monitoring and manipulating insect pests and their natural enemies
Author: Walker
Quote: “Ironically, ultrasonic emitters for the control of insects not known to hear ultrasound have been successfully marketed (or at least widely advertised) even though they are totally ineffective.”
Link

18) Brush Country Horticulture newsletter - Texas Agricultural Extension Service
September, 1996 VOL. 7, NO. 9
Link

19) Tests of ultrasonic emissions on mosquito attraction to hosts in a flight chamber - 1985
Authors: Foster & Lutes
From the abstract: “For all species there was no significant difference between the numbers trapped when the devices were switched on or off, when all devices were tested simultaneously. Tests of individual devices against Ae. aegypti also failed to show a repellent effect”
Link

20) Electronic mosquito repellents for preventing mosquito bites and malaria infection – 2007
Authors: Enayati, Hemingway & Garner
From the abstract: “Field entomological studies confirm that EMRs [electronic mosquito repellants] have no effect on preventing mosquito bites.”
Link

For effective pest control with a human touch, contact Russ by e-mail or call 813-727-4758.

Pest control services is offered in: Apollo Beach, Bloomingdale, Brandon, Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Drew Park, Egypt Lake, Forest Hills, Gibsonton, Land o' Lakes, Lutz, New Tampa, North Tampa, Plant City, Riverview, Ruskin, Seminole Heights, South Tampa, Sulphur Springs, Seffner, Tampa, Tampa Heights, Temple Terrace, Thonotosassa, Town and Country, USF area, Valrico, Wellswood, Wesley Chapel, Ybor City …and all areas in between.