Do Electronic Pest Control Devices Work?

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There are many ways to reduce the size of a pest infestation. Standard snap traps and glue traps are effective at catching mice, while bug sprays reduce the population of roaches. The downside of these methods is that they leave behind a messy clean up, and they generally do not prevent the return of insects or rodents. An alternative that is more sanitary is pest control gadgets that use sound and vibrations to repel pests away. Manufacturers claim that these devices are effective at reducing pest infestations, yet most studies conclude that the claims are exaggerated.

Types of Electronic Pest Control Gadgets

There are two main types of electronic pest control devices. One type utilizes ultrasonic sound waves to repel insects and pests. Ultrasonic sound waves are sound waves that are generated above the normal range of human hearing. This frequency is generally above 20,000 Hz. Insects and rodents are capable of hearing ultrasonic sound waves.

Another type of electronic pest control utilizes the electromagnetic field around existing wires in the home. The device sends a signal through the wire at a frequency that is detectable by insects and rodents. The vibrations coming from the wires create a boundary that is irritating to pests

Devices and Apparatus

Both ultrasonic and electromagnetic pest control devices are available in many designs. Most devices are compact in size and plug into a standard wall socket. There are portable versions of ultrasonic devices that run on batteries and have clip-on designs. These can be attached to clothing to avoid insect bites. There are even flea collars for dogs that generate an ultrasonic frequency. Most of these devices have a range between 15 and 30 feet. The energy quickly dissipates as the sound waves travel further from the source. Indoor ultrasonic devices create shadows, which are areas that are blocked from ultrasonic waves, usually by furniture.

One potential application of electromagnetic devices is pest control in agriculture. The method utilized metal rods that are connected by wires and an electromagnetic controller that generates the signal. The metal rods are inserted into the ground and the device is turned on. The idea is that vibrations produced from the signal move from the rods, through the ground, and up to the plants above.

These devices range in price from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. Most are available online.


Whether or not ultrasonic and electromagnetic pest control devices work, manufacturers advertise these devices heavily on home shopping channels, mail order companies and magazines. They are marketed as a safe alternative to conventional pest control. The devices may be safe, but their effectiveness is not established scientifically. Most studies dealing with ultrasonic devices indicate that they are not effective at repelling pests. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission charged some companies with false advertising. One study that was somewhat positive showed that ultrasonic sound tests on the reproduction of the Indian meal moth resulted in fewer larvae and larvae that weighed less. However, the study did not link the effects of ultrasonic sound and pest management in a real world setting. Another study tested the effects of an ultrasonic device on German cockroaches. The device didn’t repel the insect, and the study concluded that the device was not useful for pest management. Many product reviews submitted by consumers to online retailers also indicate the ineffectiveness of these devices.

Potential Dangers

Electronic pest control gadgets that are marketed as effective may be dangerous if the device is depended upon to prevent or reduce infestations of disease carrying insects. This is a primary concern in countries that purchase ultrasonic pest control devices for protection against mosquitoes carrying malaria. Electronic mosquito repellents, as these devices are known, are handheld devices that emit an ultrasonic sound that is supposedly effective up to eight feet. Several countries conducted studies of the device to determine its effectiveness. The test consisted of observing the number of mosquitoes that landed on bare body parts when the device was activated and when it was off. The results showed that there was no improvement when the device was on. This could be potentially dangerous, especially if it is used in place of other proven forms of mosquito repellents, such as mosquito nets.


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2. Askham, Leonard R. “Ultrasonic and Subsonic Pest Control Devices.” Washington State University. -

3. “Electronic Mosquito Repellents Don’t Work, Say Researchers.” ScienceDaily -

4. Ogg, Barb. “Considering Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices? Save Your Money.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln. -