The “Mosquito Magnet”–and Other Weapons of Mosquito Destruction

I live in a state that has recently experienced record breaking rainfall which was followed by a heat wave the likes of which the area hasn’t seen in decades. The rain and the heat create the ideal conditions for breeding mosquitoes. In a previous blog, I covered some simple ways you can safeguard your home from these blood sucking pests. This blog covers some mosquito control methods that folks in our neighborhood have experimented with in the wake of a warning made by our local health department. Apparently, by their estimates, millions of mosquito eggs will hatch in the next few days. For families in our area who were looking forward to enjoying evening walks or dinners on their decks this meant scrambling for products that would keep their yards mosquito-free.

Sprays, candles and lotions offer only temporary relief from mosquitoes and biting insects. So two of our neighbors who have adjacent lawns, chipped in to purchase the “Mosquito Magnet.” (This machine is NOT cheap; we’re talking hundreds of dollars.) It supposedly is scientifically proven to “virtually eliminate mosquitoes from your yard.” It looks like a Weber grill on wheels with a 20-pound propane attached to it. The brochure says it mimics a human by “emitting a plume of carbon dioxide (the CO2 is produced with propane), heat and moisture, and a short-range attractant octenol.” This combination is apparently irresistible to female mosquitoes (the ones that bite). As the mosquito (or other flying pests like black flies, sand flies, or biting midges) approaches the trap hoping for a human, it is quietly vacuumed into a net where it dehydrates and dies. (The device sucks in bugs in a radius of up to 1.25 acres.) The “Mosquito Magnet” is designed to run 24 hours a day. The company says by doing so you increase the chance of killing as many female mosquitoes as possible and by “killing just one mosquito at the start of the mosquito season can prevent the birth of up to 25,000 more mosquitoes in that season alone.” Our neighbors got it up and running last night and it seems to work, I guess. I think we will know better in a few days when the predicted mass hatching takes place.

Another neighbor is trying a different tactic. He went to the hardware store and bought a big plastic container of “Mosquito Attack” a product that contains BTI. Here’s what I learned about BTI: The ‘BT’ stands for Bacillis thuringensis–a group of natural soil-dwelling organisms. The ‘I’ stands for israelensis, the specific ‘strain’ of Bt that kills baby mosquitoes before they can leave the water as biting adults. They are available as granules or briquettes and they do not harm other organisms. Birds and fish can even eat insects that have ingested the BTI without any harm. It is made specifically for ponds, fountains and areas of standing water that dot your property.

If you do have a pond in your yard there are a few warnings that you should be aware of. According to health experts, you should never use bleach, vegetable oil, motor oil or soap as substances to control mosquitoes in standing water (like lawn ponds or backyard swamps). Whether you realize it or not, these bodies of water are likely to have native predators that help keep the mosquito population under control. Bleach, oils, soap, and many other chemicals can be toxic to organisms such as fish, amphibians, and insects, and killing these mosquitoes will do more harm than good.

Even if you are lucky enough to live in an area where currently the conditions are not ripe for an all out mosquito attack, summer hasn’t officially started and no one can predict the weather; so be prepared… you could be next.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.