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Mosquitoes: No matter how hard you try to get rid of them, they just keep coming back. Unlike other pests that scurry off and hide when they see you coming, mosquitoes want to find you. They are attracted to the carbon monoxide that we exhale because it alerts them that we are a source of blood.
Yes, ultimately their goal is to sting us and suck out our blood. Not only does it hurt when a mosquito bites, but these flying insects also leave us with an itchy wound, and possibly even a deadly virus such as Zika or West Nile.
You can protect yourself by using an insect repellent spray with Deet. But do you really want to spray chemicals on your body or your children? Ongoing use of these can’t be good for you, and frankly, they really stink. 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.
But the big question is, does this contraption really work? Let’s take a look at what carbon dioxide (CO2) traps are supposed to do, and whether they actually work.
Just want to buy a CO2 mosquito trap? See our top picks here:
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 your mosquito population. The way these traps work is they mimic human or animal breath by emitting carbon dioxide gas. 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 Varieties 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 some of the different options.
- First, there’s the high-tech wireless mosquito trap. This type is generally the most expensive. It actually communicates with your computer or smartphone to give you updates. (I’m curious if you can get a text every time another mosquito is killed!) This type is cordless and runs on propane. But because it has smart technology, you can program it only run at peak times for mosquitoes.
- If you don’t want to mess with a propane tank, there’s also the option of using a corded mosquito trap system. With this one, you don’t have to worry about replacing fuel, but do you have to be careful of nicking its cord with your lawnmower or weed eater. Since you want to place it away from your home and outdoor play and living areas, there will be a long cord to contend with.
- A third option is a self-contained, independent mosquito trap that doesn’t require a cord or fuel to run. This one simply runs off of batteries and has a net that must be replaced regularly. So, if you don’t mind replacing batteries on occasion and checking the net every three to four weeks, then this may be your best option.
On average, they range from around $40 to $150 for electric devices. The larger, propane ones 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/month.
Do CO2 Traps Really Catch Mosquitoes?
Now that we’ve covered how these insect traps work, let’s discuss whether the trap works at all on these pesky flying insects. The answer? It depends on who you ask.
Naturally, a website or pest control expert trying to sell one to you is going to say yes, they work. But what do the experts think? We asked Joe Conlon, technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association, his thoughts on the subject. And here’s what he had to say:
“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,” he said. But, “these are not set-and-forget devices — each requires some level of maintenance.”
Conlon went 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 and that there could be “seasonal and circadian variables that affect mosquito responses to certain attractants.”
Factors Impacting Effective Mosquito-Killing
So, according to Conlon, will these devices trap and kill measurable numbers of mosquitoes? Yes, but whether the devices reduce the mosquito population depends on a number of factors such as:
- Individual tolerance level.
- Adult mosquito population size.
- 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 get rid of any standing water around your home to protect yourself.
Conlon warns homeowners to “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.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t think that these devices or any others are a “single silver bullet that will provide to be the ultimate answer to the mosquito problems.”
What Are the Best Mosquito Traps?
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 octanol, LED lights, etc., in addition to carbon dioxide.” And he says that ease of maintenance is key.
For DIY options, you’ll find types of traps on Amazon. Patriot Plus is a popular brand of mosquito magnet that uses propane. And Dynatrap is a well-known brand that uses UV light and requires a power cord.
Alternatively, there are pest control services that offer professionally maintained mosquito buckets. Conlon favors the in2care device, which “utilized 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.
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, then investing in a mosquito trap could help. But remember that it takes time and ongoing maintenance to get results. It’s best used in conjunction with other eco-friendly pest control methods.