Carbon Dioxide Mosquito Traps – Do They Really Work?

Mosquito Magnet

Mosquitoes: No matter how hard you try to get rid of them, they just keep coming back. Mosquitoes go out of their way to find you. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale because it alerts them that we are a source of blood. So, do carbon dioxide mosquito traps really work?

If you want to get rid of your mosquito problem, but don’t want to overload your body or your yard with pesticide products, a carbon dioxide mosquito trap has great appeal. Let’s take a look at what carbon dioxide (CO2) traps are supposed to do and whether they actually work.

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What is a Carbon Dioxide Mosquito Trap?

Different from a bug zapper, a carbon dioxide mosquito trap is a device that you can place in your yard that claims to help control, reduce, or eliminate mosquitoes. The way these traps work is they mimic human or animal breath by emitting carbon dioxide gas. That, along with lights, a heat source, and an insect attractant help to attract the mosquitoes.

The mosquitoes are drawn to it as a potential blood source. Female mosquitoes who have recently mated, in particular, are especially desperate to find blood as they need it in order to produce their eggs.

When mosquitoes enter the trap, they can’t leave. Depending on the model of the mosquito trap, they are either sucked in through a vacuum, or they get caught on a sticky surface. Either way, the purpose of these traps is to control the mosquito population by killing newly mated females before they have the opportunity to lay eggs.

Different Types of CO2 Mosquito Traps

A quick Google search reveals many different kinds of these devices. Popular brands include Blue Rhino, Skeeter Vac, Mosquito Magnet, Dynatrap, and Flowtron. But the same search also reveals a broad array of opinions on whether they work at all. But before you get too overwhelmed, let’s look at the two main options.

Propane CO2 Mosquito Traps

The first option is a propane mosquito trap. These CO2 traps often use a combination of light, heat, CO2, and a mosquito attractant (such as Octenol or another type) to attract mosquitoes. These traps also use propane or a battery as a power source, though some are corded. Cordless propane CO2 traps are completely self-contained and portable.

Pros of Propane Mosquito TrapsCons of Propane Mosquito Traps
Portable Must replace propane tank and attractant cartridge
Cordless models are ideal for larger propertiesMust clean the fuel line regularly

Non-Propane CO2 Mosquito Traps

If you’d rather not go full-on propane tank for your mosquito trap, there are other non-propane options. A majority of these options are electric and need cords, so you’ll have to stay within reach of an outlet. However, many homeowners prefer these over propane tank models since there is no heavy tank to keep replacing or fuel line to maintain. 

These traps use mosquito attractant, heat, and a light (usually) along with CO2. This means the only change required is to empty the catch basket and replace the attractant and bulb periodically.

Pros of Non-Propane Mosquito TrapsCons of Non-Propane Mosquito Traps
Less expensive Requires a cord
Less maintenanceMust replace attractant and the bulb
Portable but require an outlet

On average, they range from around $40 to $150 for electric devices. The larger propane models can cost anywhere from $200 to $800 — or more. Devices that are rented/maintained by a pest control company have an initial setup fee and monthly maintenance fee of around $50 per month.

Do CO2 Traps Really Catch Mosquitoes?

Yes, according to Joe Conlon, technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association, These devices will trap and kill measurable numbers of mosquitoes. But there are other factors that influence whether the devices reduce the mosquito population, including:

  • Individual tolerance levels
  • Adult mosquito population size
  • Proximity
  • Size and type of breeding habitat producing re-infestation
  • Wind velocity and direction
  • Mosquito species present

In other words, mosquito traps work to help reduce the mosquito population, but you may still need to wear bug spray, and getting rid of standing water around your home is a must. Looking into natural repellents for your yard could also provide extra protection.

Conlon warns homeowners, “Please be cautioned against putting too much faith in traps as your sole means of control. These traps represent an evolving technology that is a most welcome addition to our mosquito control armamentarium. Their potential is great but shouldn’t be overestimated.”

He doesn’t think that these devices or any others are a “single silver bullet that will prove to be the ultimate answer to the mosquito problems.” A combination of techniques that kill adult mosquitoes and prevent larvae from developing will provide optimal results for homeowners.

Other Factors Impacting Effective Mosquito-Killing

Dead Mosquitos in a Trap
Photo Credit: James Stewart / Pixnio / CC0

Manufacturers and Conlon say yes, these carbon dioxide mosquito traps work, but pest control experts note that the answer is more nuanced.

Conlon explains: “An enormous amount of consumer interest has been generated by the marketing of the new devices designed to attract, then either trap or kill mosquitoes. The general idea is to reduce the number of questing mosquitoes that would otherwise be afflicting the homeowner.” 

Differences in questing behavior: Conlon goes on to explain the level of complexity in the questing behaviors of mosquitoes: 

  • “With 174 species of mosquitoes currently recognized in the United States, this is no small issue and will require many years before research can provide a clarification.” He said that there was some anecdotal evidence that baited traps capture more females in some species over others.

Seasonal differences: Conlon notes that there could be “seasonal and circadian variables that affect mosquito responses to certain attractants.”

Maintenance needs: In addition to possible variations by type of mosquito and time of the season, Conlon cautions that you’ll need to maintain your CO2 trap, as well, to get the most out of it: 

  • “These are not set-and-forget devices — each requires some level of maintenance.” Ineffective maintenance, such as forgetting to refill propane tanks, clean fuel lines, or replace Octenol cartridges, will result in less than desirable levels of control.

Where you place the trap: Placement can be the difference between catching 10 mosquitoes and catching 100. 

  • Place traps in areas where mosquitoes are likely. This involves areas where there is shade, water, moist soils, or tall grasses.
  • Mosquitoes need a water source to lay their eggs, so setting up a trap where they are likely to be (near stagnant water) is a sure way to attract some of those biting insects.
  • Place traps in areas without much foot traffic.

Indoor traps should be placed in damp areas of the house like a garage or areas that you notice get the most mosquitoes.

What Are the Best Mosquito Traps?

Photo Credit: Fairfax County / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

While a CO2 mosquito trap may not be the ultimate mosquito killer, it may offer some relief. So what do you look for when buying one?

Conlon says that “the best devices utilize a number of different attractants like octenol, LED lights, etc., in addition to carbon dioxide.” And he says that ease of maintenance is key.

For DIY options, you’ll find different types of traps on Amazon and other online or brick and mortar retailers. The most common DIY traps involve CO2 fan traps and LED traps. These can give you protection without having to spend a lot of money on new equipment. Both of these traps can be used as pesticide alternatives and are relatively easy to set up.

Alternatively, there are pest control services that offer professionally maintained mosquito buckets. Conlon favors the in2care device, which “utilize[s] an attractant in addition to a specific fungus that targets mosquito females.” He said that it also “utilizes a larvicide. Thus, it attacks the problem from several different aspects.”

In2care has posted a video demonstration on how its product works.

FAQ About CO2 Mosquito Traps

How do you Make a CO2 Mosquito Trap?

If you aren’t convinced about buying a CO2 mosquito trap, maybe you’d be interested in making one yourself with these simple tools:

Fan: Ground-sitting fans work best for this DIY project.
• Wired screen: You’ll want a piece large enough to put over the back face of your fan.
• CO2: For most small, indoor traps, a bottle of carbonated water can work to attract the mosquitoes.
• Box or container: This is to keep your trap in so that it’s in a controlled environment.
• Spray bottle: Mix rubbing alcohol with water (2 to 1 ratio).
• Paper towel: A white paper towel to spot mosquitoes.

Once you have the supplies, the only thing left to do is make the trap.

How Long Does it Take a CO2 Trap to Work?

On average, it takes about four weeks to notice a reduction in the number of mosquitoes in your yard. This is because it takes time to break the breeding cycle of these pesky bugs. However, as soon as it powers on, mosquitoes will be lured to the trap, and you’ll begin to see mosquitoes in the catch basket. Check for carcasses after a few hours.

What is the Best Indoor Mosquito Trap?

Most people choose UV light traps and CO2 traps for those pesky indoor mosquitoes, but it comes down to personal preference. Others use plants or grasses such as citronella that naturally repel mosquitoes and other bugs.

What is the Most Effective Mosquito Control?

The most effective mosquito control involves using a combination of these five methods: skin repellents, landscape cleanups, larvicides, adulticides, and mosquito control devices.

Skin repellents: These are the typical spray mosquito repellents that you can find in the store or online.
Landscape cleanups: This refers to making your landscape as uninviting to mosquitoes as possible. Often this involves clearing out leaves, fallen branches, and compost piles. Getting rid of any standing water is probably the most important since mosquitoes use stagnant water as the nesting site for their larvae. 
Larvicides: These work to kill larvae before they have a chance to reach adulthood. Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis, or Bti, is a popular larvicide that you can place in rain barrels, ditches, or bird baths to prevent larvae from developing in these areas. Bti is safe for pets, people, honeybees, and the environment when used as directed.
Adulticides: When pest control services spray properties for mosquitoes, they are using adulticides. Common methods are barrier spraying or fogging to kill adult mosquitoes in the area.
• Mosquito control devices: Carbon dioxide traps fall under the control device category. These are devices that either repel or attract and kill mosquitoes. These devices are available for purchase and require some upkeep to continually control the mosquito population.

A Help, but Not a Miracle Product

Carbon dioxide mosquito traps may not obliterate the mosquito population but merit consideration as part of your mosquito control efforts. Up to this point, mosquito traps and other natural remedies have not killed mosquitoes as effectively as synthetic pesticides. However, if you want to reduce your yard’s mosquitoes naturally, investing in a mosquito trap could help.

Remember that it takes time and ongoing maintenance to get results. It’s best used in conjunction with other eco-friendly pest control methods.

Whether it’s industrial chemical spraying or environmentally friendly control you’re looking for, professionals can help. For further lawn and pest problems, contact a local pest control pro to get back to enjoying mosquito-free get-togethers.

LawnStarter participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. LawnStarter may earn revenue from products promoted in this article.

Main Image Credit: JLS Photography – Alaska / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester is a freelance writer and social media strategist who covers a variety of home and garden topics. She’s a graduate of Texas A&M University and the proud mom of three boys. In her spare time, she volunteers in her community and her children’s schools.