About propane mosquito traps
How do they work?
Propane mosquito traps are designed to take advantage of the signals mosquitoes use to find us. Mosquitoes are attracted to body heat and the carbon dioxide and water vapor we exhale. Like many other insects, they are also attracted to light. Propane mosquito traps produce all of these things, sometimes together with additional lure products like octenol (produced by cows). Thus, they mimic a living, breathing mammalian target.
This lures the mosquitoes to the trap, which often vacuums them into a net, container, or onto sticky paper. In some devices, the intake tube is a different (darker) color than the rest of the unit, providing a visual target for mosquitoes.
Propane traps don’t use insecticides. Instead, mosquitoes starve to death or dry out.
In order to produce these human signals, the traps use propane. They have a catalytic converter that transforms the propane into carbon dioxide. To disperse attractants, operate lights, and vacuum up insects, they use either propane, batteries, or A/C power. They release carbon dioxide at 350 to over 500 ml/min.
Some devices use “counterflow technology”, which disperses attractant with a fan while the vacuum is working. This is more effective than devices in which air only flows in one direction at a time.
They can catch thousands of mosquitoes during a week of operation, much more than light traps, which only have light and carbon dioxide supplied by a compressed gas container. In one study, propane mosquito traps caught an average of 1400 Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in 18 separate 48-hour trials compared to 345 caught in light and suction traps.
What they don’t do
Many mosquito trap manufacturers boast that their product will wipe out the local mosquito population. This is dishonest. While they do trap and often kill mosquitoes that approach them, they cannot remove an entire population of mosquitoes. Similarly, they won’t keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes altogether. That would be a miracle.
Keep in mind!
In one small area, installing 1 trap per acre did effectively protect residents from the one species of mosquito present, but a single trap in one person's backyard can't protect an entire neighborhood.
Are they safe?
Propane is a clean-burning fuel, meaning that it won’t release harmful toxins into the air around your home and spills won’t damage your local environment. However, propane is flammable, so spills create a fire risk. Some propane traps rely on propane flame as the material converted into carbon dioxide. This means that there is a near-constant flame burning in your yard that can be dangerous to kids and pets. However, the flame is fully contained within the device, which you can often secure to the ground to reduce the chances of a human or animal knocking them over.
There are no dangerous pesticides that could harm the local bee population or be touched or ingested by a pet or child. The attractants specifically target mosquitoes, so you will catch fewer beneficial insects than even sticky paper alone.
Plug-in units do present a tripping hazard, especially if you leave them up throughout the season. Make sure to clearly mark the cord or install it underground.
Tips for using propane traps
Make sure to match the unit with the species of mosquitoes most common in your area.
These traps are not effective for mosquitoes that travel long distances to find food. You’re unlikely to affect their breeding population by catching some of them far from their breeding areas.
You will achieve the best outcome if your local mosquito species is a short-distance flyer or breeds near your home. Furthermore, not all mosquitoes use the same cues to find a meal. In a study mentioned previously, light traps caught over 1100 Aedes infirmatus mosquitoes vs an average of 275 in propane traps.
Don’t rely solely on propane traps. They are most effective when used in conjunction with other pest control techniques, including eliminating breeding areas, using repellents, and making sure mosquitoes can’t get inside your home.
Make sure to buy the right size for your property. Many propane traps are rated for 1 acre, but some are for smaller areas. Be aware of the area rating on the trap you’re considering.
Trap placement is key. If you place your trap somewhere mosquitoes don’t go, it won’t matter which trap you buy; it won’t work. As mentioned, you’ll get the most use out of your machine if the mosquito breeding grounds are nearby. Locate them. Then place the trap between the breeding area and your outdoor gathering spaces. This way, the trap will intercept mosquitoes on their way to make a meal out of you and your family. If you can, set the trap upwind of the breeding grounds as mosquitoes fly upwind to find food.
Make sure not to place it too close to where people congregate outdoors. The closer the trap is to people the more likely a mosquito is to find a person. 30-40 feet away is best.
Place the trap in the shade but not in bushes or tall grass. Mosquitoes prefer shade to direct sunlight. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and won’t be able to rise above the level of the dispenser so it shouldn’t be blocked by foliage.
Make sure to start your trap before mosquitoes arrive. Once the temperature remains at around 50°F consistently, eggs start to hatch and dormant females emerge ready to lay new ones. In southern states (e.g., Florida, Texas), it’s best to start running your trap in February, while in more northern states (e.g., Maine, Washington), you can wait until May. Don’t start your trap until it’s had a couple days to air out and dry out.
These types of traps are not one-time use devices. You’re going to need to leave it running for the entire season.
Maintaining your trap during the season is critical for its success. Approximately every 3 weeks, replace the lure and the net, refill your propane tank, inspect the side vents, and clean the trap. Dead bugs and pollen can clog nets and vents. Nets can become damaged. Between replacements, make sure to empty and clean the net so that you keep trapping bugs. A dirty net will obstruct airflow and reduce the trap’s ability to vacuum up mosquitoes. If your trap uses sticky paper, check it frequently and replace as needed. It won’t be much use if it’s full of dead bugs.
What you should consider before buying
These devices are expensive to purchase and run. Continuous operation (which is recommended) can cost over $20/month. You have to replace the propane, sticky paper, and any additional lures. Make sure it will be the right choice for you. In experimental trials, humans and other animals were still more attractive to mosquitoes than propane traps. Make sure you have the space to set them up far away from your outdoor gathering spaces. The last thing you want is to attract more mosquitoes to your yard that will bypass the trap and feast on you and your family.
Cordless units are more portable but powered units are more reliable and less expensive.
Octenol is not effective for all species of mosquitoes. Specifically, a set of experiments found that traps baited with octenol trapped fewer Culex pipiens and Culex orientalis mosquitoes than traps without octenol. Find out if your local mosquitoes are attracted to octenol before making your decision.
Propane traps require more maintenance than a can of mosquito repellent or even sticky traps. As mentioned, the propane, sticky paper, and lures will need to be replaced. Propane lasts a few weeks, sticky paper will need to be replaced more frequently, and the lifetime of the lure depends on what the product is. Octenol lasts for a month to a month and a half. If your trap uses nets or containers, those will need to be emptied and cleaned of dead bugs and their residue. If this level of maintenance is not possible for you or you’re otherwise unlikely to keep up with it, propane traps would not be worth your money.
Overall, mosquito traps are effective but not as effective as manufacturers often claim. They can be a little bit pricey, but in the right location, they can be worth the money. The sheer number of mosquitoes they will catch makes them a useful part of many mosquito control strategies. These propane mosquito catchers are excellent for use in the backyard and other parts of your property. While they won’t destroy whole populations of mosquitoes, they will help reduce their numbers.