Mosquitoes are not only very annoying insects, but some mosquito species also carry different diseases such as malaria, which is very dangerous to humans. To limit the spread of mosquitoes different methods and tools have been invented. Some of the methods to fight mosquitoes contain natural substances such as citronella oil, while others use chemical substances such as DEET insect repellents and insecticides used in mosquito foggers. There are also some tools that do not need to be sprayed to the skin or on areas where mosquitoes reside, but they attract and kill mosquitoes automatically. One of these devices are bug zappers, that we have looked at previously which are not that effective for mosquito termination. The second type of such device is called a mosquito trap.
Basically, there are two types of mosquito traps, homemade and commercial.
Homemade mosquito traps
There are different types of homemade mosquito traps, but the most common variant includes cutting a plastic bottle in the middle, filling the bottom of the bottle with water, filling it with brown sugar that will dissolve and this sticky fluid will trap mosquitoes inside the trap. Next, approx. 1 gram of yeast is added on top of the water that creates carbon dioxide in combination with water. As you may know, carbon dioxide is one of the strongest attractants for mosquitoes. You can see a guide of making such a mosquito trap here.
Does it work? People have mixed reviews whether this type of mosquito trap works. Although some people report that this trap actually catches some mosquitoes, majority of people have found it ineffective or partially effective, however, the chances are low that using such a mosquito trap will reduce the mosquito population and have a long term impact on mosquito count in your backyard.
There are many other guides for homemade mosquito traps that you can find on the internet, however, we have found that professional products work much better for mosquito control than simple, homemade tools. And to successfully reduce the number of mosquitoes in a yard a combination of multiple mosquito-killing methods must be used.
Video showing how to make a simple mosquito trap at home
Commercial mosquito traps
There have been growing need for a perfect mosquito killing device and numerous attempts to make such a device have failed including some natural mosquito repellents and a large number of bug zappers. But there are also some insect control methods that can really have an impact on the mosquito population in a certain area when they are used for a longer period of time. One of such devices is a mosquito trap. There is a large market for devices that can reduce a mosquito population, especially, if such a device does not use any toxic substances. This is why in the latest years commercial mosquito traps have gained popularity among mosquito killing and repelling methods. What are commercial mosquito traps, what methods they use to attract and kill mosquitoes and how effective they are when compared to other mosquito population reducing methods? Find out below.
How do mosquito traps work?
To understand how mosquito traps work you first need to understand how mosquitoes find humans. As simple and primitive a mosquito may seem, it actually uses multiple senses to find their victim and different mosquito breeds can use different detection methods. If you want to know all the methods how mosquitoes find their victims, read this article. Majority of mosquitoes find humans by sensing carbon dioxide we exhale when breathing. This is considered to be a long distance detection mosquitoes use to sense their victims for the first time. When they are closer, mosquitoes can detect various odors from our bodies, such as lactic acid and they can also sense heat. Some mosquito breeds can even detect movement and colors from a distance. So to make a perfect mosquito trap, you must make a device that can imitate all these mosquitoes attracting things. And commercial mosquito traps are closest devices that can imitate a human or animal behavior in eyes of a mosquito.
Mosquito traps can use a combination of multiple mosquito attraction methods to improve their efficiencies such as producing carbon dioxide gases and different chemicals our bodies produce that attract mosquitoes such as octanol, some traps produce light and heat that attracts many mosquito species from a shorter distance.
To mimic an actual human or an animal, mosquito traps output all these scents from special devices that need to be placed close to an area where mosquitoes like to reside such as standing water. To convince and attract majority of mosquitoes, traps output roughly the same amount of CO2, chemicals such as octanol and heat that human body emits. Mosquitoes will sense all these signals and think that there is human near and will fly directly to the trap, where they are going to get cough by a trap and killed. Some mosquito traps are even smart enough to imitate human breathing by releasing these gases in a certain rhythm. When mosquitoes sense the gas released by the trap they will fly upwind in direction of the trap.
Methods of attracting mosquitoes to traps
The type of method used for attracting mosquitoes in a mosquito trap can vary between different models, but most of the time a mosquito trap will use a combination of multiple methods to reach better results in mosquito attraction. These devices can vary pretty much in their size and looks, some smaller models are made for indoor usage while other, large traps are used for outdoor areas. The price for these devices can also vary a lot from few dozen dollars for simple devices with one or two mosquito attraction functions up to multiple hundred dollars for large, propane driven mosquito traps that can use a combination of practically all mosquito attracting functions. Here are the most common ways a trap can attract mosquitoes:
- Carbon dioxide output – Most mosquito traps that use carbon dioxide have got a propane cylinder, burning the propane gas will release a carbon dioxide and water. However, mosquito foggers don’t burn the propane in the same way as we can see in grills or even insect foggers, they burn the propane using a catalyst. Using this method a propane gas can be burned in very low amounts, in opposite to regular burning with an open flame, which is needed to produce equal amounts of carbon dioxide that human exhale when breathing. Also as most mosquito traps are left to work unattended for longer periods, burning a propane gas with flame may cause serious fire risks to the device and the environment around. Traps that produce carbon dioxide from a propane gas need to have a propane cylinder attached to the trap. When the cylinder runs out of the gas it needs to be changed to a new cylinder, which makes these type of mosquito traps quite expensive for long time usage.
- Heat emission – As mosquitoes use heat sensing from a short distance to find a spot on a human body, where blood is closer to the skin. Mosquito traps emit heat mostly in the form of infrared light to attract mosquitoes from a shorter distance.
- Light – Some mosquito trap systems also produce both visible and invisible light that can attract mosquitoes. Some mosquito traps use flashing light in certain frequencies that have been tested to attract mosquitoes, and other traps may use night lights to attract those mosquito species that are active at night.
- Other attractants – Besides carbon dioxide, heat and light, we know that mosquitoes are attracted by different scents, so many traps use a combination of multiple scents, from which the most common are octenol and lurex. Traps that use one of these scents in combination with carbon dioxide prove to be more effective than those traps that use just carbon dioxide for mosquito attraction. Octenol and lurex each work on different types of mosquitoes, so you have to test which of these chemicals is more effective in the area you live in.
Capturing and killing of mosquitoes
When mosquito has been lured to the trap by using some of those attractants, it is time to trap and kill it. There are multiple ways mosquito traps catch and kill mosquitoes. Here are the most common ways:
- Vacuuming mosquitoes into the trap with a fan – The most common method for capturing mosquitoes into the trap is by using a strong fan, that simply sucks them in when they fly close to the opening of the trap. Mosquitoes can get captured into a net, capture bag, cup, sticky board or a tray, based on the type of the trap. When mosquitoes are trapped inside a tray, after some time they dehydrate and die.
- Sticky surface – Some mosquito traps simply have a sticky surface inside the trap. Mosquitoes are attracted to the trap, flies into the trap, lands on the sticky surface, get stuck on it and after some time dies.
- Electric grid – Other mosquito traps use an electric grid to electrocute mosquitoes that fly into the trap, similarly as bug zappers.
Effectiveness and time
There have been numerous debates on whether mosquito traps are effective to limit and decrease the mosquito population in the area they are used. First of all, traps will catch a certain number of mosquitoes for sure, but are these devices good enough to let you enjoy mosquito-free outdoor time in your backyard?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to this question.
As with most mosquito killing and repelling methods and devices, mosquito traps may work for some people, while others will find that this mosquito controlling method isn’t effective in their area.
The effectiveness of a mosquito trap depends on multiple factors such as:
- Location – Location you use the mosquito trap has the highest impact on the success rate of it killing mosquitoes and reducing the population of mosquitoes around. In some locations, you will find a very high mosquito population, which can be reduced only by using multiple methods together and a single mosquito trap won’t be able to visibly impact mosquito population in that area. In other areas, there might be multiple places where mosquitoes reside, such as ponds, swamps and other areas with standing water, long bushes, shrubbery, clogged rain gutters, dark and humid places around the house, etc. In this case, you may need to use multiple mosquito traps to successfully reduce a mosquito population, which can cost you a lot more than using other methods, such as mosquito foggers.
- Weather conditions – Weather conditions also have a strong impact on the effectiveness of a mosquito trap, especially wind. A mosquito trap must be used in an area close to the place where mosquitoes reside, so gases produced by the trap can reach this area. To do this effectively, you must constantly observe the wind direction so gases released from the trap reach the area where mosquitoes reside.
- Species of mosquitoes – There are well over 150 different mosquito breeds in the world and each of them are attracted to different type of things, some are more attracted to carbon dioxide, others to heat and others to scents from human and animal skin, so different attraction methods are going to be effective on different mosquito species. The only way to know, if a mosquito trap will be effective in the area you live is to know the majority of mosquito species that live in that area, and use a mosquito trap that provides such attraction methods that draw those specific mosquito breeds.
- Type of product used – There are many different mosquito traps in the market that each differs by the way they attract and trap mosquitoes. Some of these products are of high quality and will provide good results in most areas, while others may prove to be almost useless. In many cases, when the quality of the product is good but trap does not catch a large amount of mosquitoes, the problem is in the fact that you have bought the unsuitable product for your certain situation. This is why it is important to consider the other three points in this list – location, weather conditions and the majority of mosquito species in that area, before choosing a mosquito trap.
From the positive side, I must note that most commercial mosquito traps actually work and can kill thousands of mosquitoes in few days and even dramatically reduce the population of mosquitoes in your backyard, but the success of a trap will usually depend on those factors listed above.
However, there are some cases, when mosquito traps can cause an opposite effect. When traps are not being used correctly, or the product has got poor quality, or mosquito attraction methods are not effective for the majority of mosquito breeds in that area, traps may draw even more mosquitoes to the area it is used. This is a huge problem for some mosquito traps, they not only are ineffective for killing mosquitoes, but they can even increase the mosquito count in the area used. A trap might emit carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes from areas further away, however, be unsuccessful in killing them, so in result, the population of mosquitoes in your backyard will increase and you will have even more problems than before setting up the trap. If this is the case, then stop using this mosquito trap, look for possible causes of such fault and try another method to fight with mosquitoes such as insect foggers.
Another factor you need to consider when using a mosquito trap is time. It takes some time, usually over a month or two to start to see an effect in the reduction of the mosquito population. This depends on the life cycle of a mosquito species in your area. If you find that using a trap is successful, after few weeks of usage you will start to see a reduction in the overall mosquito population and after a long time of successful usage, the majority of mosquitoes will disappear from that area.
Probably the largest disadvantage of mosquito traps is their high purchase and maintenance cost. A professional mosquito trap can cost from a hundred dollars up to a thousand dollars, which is a lot when compared to other mosquito killing and repelling methods. But besides high purchase costs, mosquito traps require frequent maintenance, especially for traps that use propane gas to produce carbon dioxide. Generally, after few weeks or months of usage, depending on how frequent the trap works, you will need to change the propane tank, which can cost from a couple of dollars to few dozen dollars depending on the size of the propane cylinder.
If a mosquito trap uses chemicals such as octanol or lurex to attract mosquitoes, they also need to be changed from time to time.
Besides that, most mosquito traps work on electricity that power the fan, which is used to trap mosquitoes inside a net or tray or to illuminate a light that attracts mosquitoes, if your trap has got such a feature. Electricity consumption of a trap is small, but if you work the trap each day you will definitely see some growth in your electrical bills. And last, but not least, you need to spend your own time for maintenance of the trap, as you will regularly need to change the propane cylinder, replace or clean mosquito nets and trays, replace chemical sticks and stripes of octanol and lurex, to ensure that your mosquito trap continues to work as needed.
If you still find that a mosquito trap is the best mosquito control method for your backyard, here are some useful tips, how to use and where to place a mosquito trap to reach the best results and reduce mosquito count in your backyard.
- Locate areas around your yard where mosquitoes are residing and breeding, such as areas with standing water, taller grass, shrubbery and similar. Place the trap approx. 30-40 feet (9-12 m) away from these areas and also the area you want to protect from mosquitoes, to ensure that the trap covers a wider area, but at the same time don’t place the trap too far away, or it will not reach the area, where most mosquitoes reside.
- Place the trap in a shady area, to reach better results. Most mosquitoes prefer shade and not sunny spots, also to reach better results place the trap upwind from the area where mosquitoes reside.
- Make sure that there aren’t any blockages for gases to reach mosquito breeding area such as trees, long grass and similar.
- Find out what type of mosquito species live in your area, to know, what type of attractant will best suite this area for more successful results of using a mosquito trap.