Mosquito Traps, Explained

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Mosquitoes aren’t just very annoying insects. Some mosquito species carry different diseases, such as malaria, which are very dangerous to humans.

For that reason, many different methods and tools exist to limit the spread of mosquitoes. Some of these methods use natural substances like citronella oil. Others use chemicals like DEET or the insecticides in mosquito foggers.

There are also some tools that you don’t need to apply to your body or spray where mosquitoes live. These tools attract and kill mosquitoes automatically. One of these is the bug zapper, which we’ve examined in another article. The second type of device is the mosquito trap.

In this article, we’re going to delve deep into mosquito traps. We’ll discuss how they work, their cost, effectiveness, and even give you some useful tips. Let’s start with the basics. First of all, there are two types of mosquito traps: homemade and commercial.

Homemade Mosquito Traps

There are many different homemade mosquito traps. The most common variant requires cutting a plastic bottle in half. You then fill the bottom of the bottle with sugar dissolved in water. Next, you add approximately 1 gram (0.35 tsp) of yeast to the water. The yeast creates carbon dioxide, one of the mosquitoes’ strongest attractants. You can find a guide that explains how to make this kind of mosquito trap here.

homemade mosquito trap

But does it work? There are mixed reviews about whether this type of mosquito trap works. Some have said that this trap actually catches some mosquitoes. Others have found it ineffective or only partially effective. Using a homemade mosquito trap isn’t likely to reduce the mosquito population or have a long-term impact on the mosquito count in your yard.

A video showing how to make a simple homemade mosquito trap:

You can find many other guides for homemade mosquito traps on the internet. We’ve found that professional products work much better for mosquito control than simple, homemade tools. To successfully reduce the number of mosquitoes, you should use a combination of multiple mosquito-killing methods.

Commercial Mosquito Traps

There is a growing need for the perfect mosquito-killing device. Many attempts to make such a device have failed, including some natural mosquito repellents and a large number of bug zappers.

But there are some insect control methods that can really have an impact on the mosquito population of an area when used over a long period of time. There is a large market for devices that can reduce the mosquito population, especially if that device doesn’t use any toxic substances. One such device is the mosquito trap.

This is why commercial mosquito traps have gained popularity in recent years. What are commercial mosquito traps? What methods do they use to attract and kill mosquitoes? How effective are they compared to other mosquito-reducing methods? Find out below.

How Mosquitoes Find Humans

To understand how mosquito traps work, you first must understand how mosquitoes find humans. As simple and primitive as mosquitoes may seem, they actually use multiple senses to find their victims. If you want to learn about all the methods mosquitoes use to find their victims, read this article.

Most mosquitoes find humans by sensing the carbon dioxide (CO2) we exhale when breathing. This is a long-distance detection method mosquitoes use to find their victims from far away. When they’re closer, mosquitoes can detect the heat as well as various odors from our bodies, such as lactic acid. Some mosquito breeds can even detect movement and colors.

How Mosquito Traps Work

So, to make the perfect mosquito trap, you have to be able to imitate all the things that attract mosquitoes. Commercial mosquito traps are the devices that come closest to imitating humans or animals in the eyes of a mosquito.

Mosquito traps can use a combination of multiple mosquito attraction methods. They can produce CO2 as well as the other mosquito-attracting chemicals our bodies produce, such as octenol. Some traps produce light and heat, which attract many mosquito species from a shorter distance.

To attract the maximum number of mosquitoes, these traps output roughly the same amount of CO2, octenol, and heat that the human body emits. Some mosquito traps are even smart enough to imitate human breathing by releasing the gases in a certain rhythm. When mosquitoes sense the gas released by the trap, they’ll fly upwind in the direction of the trap.

You need to place the device near an area where mosquitoes live, like standing water. Mosquitoes will sense all these signals and think that a human is nearby. They’ll fly directly into the trap, which will catch and kill them.

hanging mosquito trap

Methods of Attracting Mosquitoes to Traps

These devices can vary in size and appearance. Some smaller models are for indoor use while other larger traps are for outdoor areas. The methods a mosquito trap uses to attract mosquitoes can vary between models. Most of the time, the trap will use a combination of methods for better results.

Here are the most common ways a trap attracts mosquitoes:

Carbon Dioxide Output

Most mosquito traps that use CO2 have a propane tank. They burn the propane gas to release CO2 and water. Mosquito foggers don’t burn the propane like grills or insect foggers do, though. They use a catalyst instead. By using this method, the propane gas can be burned in very small amounts, unlike with an open flame. This produces quantities of CO2 that are equivalent to what humans exhale when breathing. Also, since most mosquito traps are left to work unattended for long periods of time, using an open flame could create serious fire risks for both the device and the surrounding environment.

Keep in mind that you will need to replace the propane tanks in these types of traps when they run out, making them quite expensive for long-term use.

If you are interested or want to know more, read our best propane mosquito trap article.

Heat Emission

Mosquitoes use heat to find a spot on the body where blood is closer to the skin. To attract nearby mosquitoes, mosquito traps emit heat mostly in the form of infrared light.

Light Emission

Some mosquito traps also produce both visible and invisible light that can attract mosquitoes. Some use flashing lights at certain frequencies proven to attract mosquitoes. Other traps may use night lights to attract those mosquito species that are active at night.

Other Attractants

Besides CO2, heat, and light, many different aromas attract mosquitoes. That’s why many traps use a combination of multiple scents, the most common of which are octenol and lurex.

Traps that use one of these scents in combination with CO2 are more effective at attracting mosquitoes than those that use just CO2. Octenol and lurex each work on different types of mosquitoes, so you’ll have to see which of these is more effective where you live.

Capturing and Killing Mosquitoes

When the traps lure a mosquito in, it’s time to trap and kill it. There are multiple ways that mosquito traps catch and kill mosquitoes.

Here are the most common:

A Fan

The most common method for capturing mosquitoes is by using a strong fan. The fan simply sucks them in when they fly close to the opening of the trap. The mosquitoes are gathered in a net, capture bag, cup, or tray, depending on the type of trap. Sometime after being caught, the mosquitoes will become dehydrated and die.

A Sticky Surface

Some mosquito traps simply have a sticky surface inside. So, the trap attracts the mosquitoes. They then fly into the trap, land on the sticky surface, get stuck, and die.

An Electric Grid

Like bug zappers, some mosquito traps use an electric grid to electrocute the mosquitoes that fly into the trap.


There have been many debates on whether mosquito traps are effective at limiting mosquito populations. The traps will definitely catch a certain number of mosquitoes. But are these devices good enough at what they do to allow you to enjoy a mosquito-free time in your yard?

As with most methods and devices to kill and repel mosquitoes, mosquito traps may work for some people. Others will find that this method simply isn’t effective for them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to this question. The effectiveness of a mosquito trap depends on many factors, including:


The location you use the mosquito trap has the highest impact on its success or failure. In places with a very high mosquito population, the only way to successfully combat mosquitoes will be by using multiple methods together. One single mosquito trap won’t visibly impact the mosquito population in that area.

In other areas, there might be many places where mosquitoes live, such as ponds, swamps, areas with standing water, long grass, shrubbery, clogged rain gutters, dark and humid places around the house, and so on. In this case, you might need to use many mosquito traps to successfully reduce the mosquito population. This could end up costing you a lot more than other methods, such as mosquito foggers.

Weather Conditions

The weather conditions also have a strong impact on the effectiveness of a mosquito trap, the wind in particular. You have to use the mosquito trap close to the place where mosquitoes live so that the gases produced by the trap can reach the pests. To do this effectively, you must constantly observe the wind to ensure the gases released by the trap reach the mosquitoes.

Mosquito Species

There are 3000+ types of mosquito in the world. Each of these is attracted to different things. Some are more attracted to CO2, others to heat, and others to scents from human and animal skin. This means that different attraction methods are going to be effective on different mosquitoes. The only way to know if a mosquito trap will be effective where you live is to know the species that live in that area. Then you have to use a mosquito trap that attracts those specific types of mosquitoes.

Type of Product Used

There are many different mosquito traps on the market. Each differs in the way it attracts and traps mosquitoes. Some are high quality and will perform well in most areas while others may prove to be almost useless.

In many cases, when the product is of good quality but the trap doesn’t catch a large number of mosquitoes, that product might simply be unsuitable for your specific situation. This is why it’s important to consider the other points in this list (location, weather, and mosquito species) before choosing a mosquito trap.

On the positive side, we must note that most commercial mosquito traps actually work. They can kill thousands of mosquitoes in a few days and dramatically reduce the mosquito population in your yard. But the success of a trap will usually depend on the factors listed above.

commercial mosquito trap

There are also some cases, though, where mosquito traps can cause the opposite effect. If the trap isn’t used correctly, if it’s of poor quality, or if its mosquito attraction methods don’t work on the mosquitoes in that area, the traps may end up attracting even more mosquitoes to the area. This is a huge problem for some mosquito traps. Not only are they ineffective at killing mosquitoes, but they can end up increasing the mosquito population in the area.

If this is the case, then stop using this mosquito trap immediately. Check for any possible causes of failure and try another method to fight the mosquitoes, such as an insect fogger.


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 seeing a reduction in the mosquito population.

This depends on the lifecycle of the mosquito species in your area. If you find that the trap is successful, after a few weeks of use, you’ll start to see a reduction in the overall mosquito population. After a long time of successful use, the majority of mosquitoes will have disappeared from the area.


The price of these devices can vary a lot. They can range from a few dollars for simple devices with one or two mosquito attracting functions up to hundreds of dollars for large, propane-driven mosquito traps that use a combination of practically all mosquito attracting functions.

The largest disadvantage of mosquito traps is their high price and maintenance cost. A professional mosquito trap can cost from a hundred up to a thousand dollars. This is a lot compared to some other mosquito killing and repelling methods.

Besides the high cost, mosquito traps require frequent maintenance, especially those that use propane to produce CO2. You’ll need to change the propane tank every few weeks or months, depending on the frequency of use. The price of replacement propane will depend on the size of the propane tank.

If a mosquito trap uses chemicals such as octenol or lurex to attract mosquitoes, you will also have to change these from time to time.

Besides all of that, most mosquito traps need electricity. This powers the fan or the light that attracts mosquitoes – if your trap has this feature. The trap won’t consume much electricity, but if you run it every day, you’ll definitely see a difference in your electrical bills.

Last but not least, you’ll need to spend your own time to maintain the trap. You’ll have to change the propane tank regularly, replace or clean the mosquito nets and trays, and replace the octenol and lurex to ensure that your mosquito trap continues to work as needed.

Usage Tips

If you think mosquito traps are the best mosquito control method for your yard, here are some useful tips on how to use them and where to place them for the best results.

  • To get the best results, start by locating the areas where mosquitoes are living and breeding. This means areas with standing water, taller grass, shrubbery, and so on. Place the trap approximately 30–40 ft. (9–12 m) away from these areas. It should also be the same distance from the area you want to protect from mosquitoes. You want to ensure that the trap covers a wide area. But, at the same time, you don’t want to place the trap too far away or it won’t reach the area where most mosquitoes live.
  • Set the trap in a shady area. Most mosquitoes prefer shade over sunshine. You should also keep the trap upwind from the area where the mosquitoes live.
  • Make sure that there aren’t any barriers that stop the gases from reaching the mosquito breeding area, such as trees, long grass, and so on.
  • Find out what types of mosquitoes live near you. You’ll need to know to find out what types of attractants will get the best results.

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