Removing pests from lawns, garages, and property is an ongoing battle that often involves a small arsenal of weapons, including toxic chemicals. But for those who would rather avoid these toxins, finding a better solution is a must – and that’s where ultrasonic pest control comes in.

What is Ultrasonic Pest Control?

Mousetrap with cheese
Ultrasonic devices are meant to do away with the need for chemicals and traps. Credit: Marco Verch, CC2.0

Ultrasonic pest control is a form of electronic pest control that is designed to emit short-wavelength, high-frequency soundwaves. The idea is that, while these sounds are too high in pitch for the human ear to hear, certain animals and pests who are in tune with high-frequency sounds can hear them.  These ultrasonic sound waves will supposedly trigger what’s called an audiogenic seizure response. Many animals such as mice, rats, squirrels, and pesky insects like wasps, mosquitoes, and bed bugs are known to exhibit the response. So if this plug-in pest repellent works, they will leave your property so you can enjoy it without having to use chemicals or deal with traps.

Most ultrasonic pest repeller devices are small, plug into your electrical outlet, and are about the same size as a baby monitor or miniature alarm clock. They come in both corded and cordless varieties. And you can purchase packs of them since their range of sound only goes so far.

Devices that require electricity will have a broader range than those that do not, however, neither type can travel through walls. So if you have multiple rooms to cover, you’ll need additional devices.

How Much Does Ultrasonic Pest Control Cost?

The cost of ultrasonic pest control devices can vary from as little as $10 up to nearly $100. The reason there is such a big discrepancy in price is that you have a variety of options here. First, most of them come in packs of two, four, or six devices. So the number that you get can impact the price.

Second, different devices serve different purposes. Some are intended to ward off virtually any type of pest, whereas some ultrasonic devices are targeted for specific pests such as rodents, insects, birds, or deer. The type(s) of pests that the devices ward off can impact the price.

Another factor affecting the price is the features of the device. For example, a device that is currently $60 on Amazon, claims to reach 7,000 square feet. It also allows you to target specific rodents or switch up the high-frequency sounds to further confuse the pests. This device also comes with a one-year warranty.

One of the cheaper ultrasonic pest control options on Amazon goes for $9.99 for a six-pack of devices. However, these only have an 800 to 900 square meter range and appear to be best suited for indoor use. You are also limited in their placement because they plug directly into electrical outlets (similar to a night light).

Some of the middle range devices (average price around $25) come with a cord so you have more control over the placement, which may be especially important outdoors where you have fewer outlets available.

Do Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Work?

This is the big question on many people’s minds. The concept sounds fantastic. No chemicals AND no pests. Could it really be so?

That’s a question that is certainly up for debate. After these devices first became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought enforcement action against six ultrasonic pest control manufacturers that they believed made false claims about what these devices can do. And in 2001, the FTC warned manufacturers and retailers that their claims on what these devices can do must be backed by scientific evidence.

But some time has passed since these occurrences, so have these devices improved? And are manufacturers and retailers adhering to their responsibility of truth in advertising? Like any other type of product, where you purchase it matters. There are a few key market participants who are reputable companies that are truly looking to create a device that is both eco-friendly and effective. However, there are also a lot of copycat companies that are simply out to make a quick buck.

Verdict Is Out

If this is a product you are interested in, do your research on companies first and purchase from one that does have a good reputation. But keep in mind that the verdict is still out on how well they work. In fact, many in the pest control industry say that they don’t work at all.

Anthony Esposito, owner of The Bug Reaper Pest Control in Houston says that he’s been called into numerous properties where there has been a pest infestation, despite the use of ultrasonic pest control devices. He says that they are a waste of money.

“Here’s a great analogy,” he said. “Have you ever walked into a store where a bell rings to alert the staff that you’re there? Over time, the staff doesn’t even pay attention because that sound has become a part of their daily routine. Sure, they’ll say ‘hello and welcome to…’ but they usually just do it without even thinking about it.”

Anthony says that the same goes for pests. The sound of a pest device may startle them the first few times they hear it, but they get used to it and soon they’ll start to ignore it.

A popular YouTuber reviewed ultrasonic pest control as a mouse repellent and his results correlate with Anthony’s description. In his review, Metaspencer observes that the mice stayed away for the first few days, but then returned to actually lick peanut butter off of one of the ultrasonic devices. Some rodent repeller.

What Science Says About This Pest Control Method

Scientists have also questioned the efficacy of the devices. At Kansas State University, a study on ultrasonic pest repellents was conducted awhile back.  It looked at a variety of insects to see what kind of effect ultrasonic devices had if any as an insect repellent. It offered the following information:

  • Cockroaches and Yellow Jackets – marginal results
  • Cat fleas – one out of three devices worked
  • Spiders and Ants – no impact
  • Crickets – two of the four devices worked

Ultimately, the study concluded that both the type of pest problem and the specific type or brand of device impacted whether it was effective at repelling the insects. Read the full report here.

Can Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Harm Pets?

Since ultrasonic pest control devices operate at higher sound frequencies, we humans can’t hear them. But what about our pets? Could dogs, cats, birds, and other pets feel distressed by these rodent repellent devices?

Let’s start with dogs. Most dogs are safe from the impact of ultrasonic waves. They may hear them but will not be impacted. However, if you have a dog with a nervous disposition, the sound could cause some stress, but there are some warning signs you can look for.

For example, if your dog seems confused, has its head tilted toward the device, starts running around trying to find where the sound is coming from or is whining or barking, these could all be signs of distress. However, if your dog completely ignores it, then you should be fine.

Cats and birds should not be bothered by the sounds either, however, like dogs, when you first try out the device, you’ll want to monitor these pets to see if they do have a reaction. Again, there are so many different types of devices that it is possible that some could cause some stress.

Ultrasonic pest repellers could affect some pets such as hamsters, rabbits, and other “domesticated rodents.”

Tips for Picking an Ultrasonic Repeller

The evidence is really inconclusive as to how effective ultrasonic pest control really is. Some people swear by it, while others, including many pest control experts, do not believe it works at all. The scientific evidence points to some types of devices working on some types of pests to some extent.

Really, the only way to tell if it will work for you is to give it a try yourself. But before you do, here are a few tips:

  • Research brands and choose one with a good reputation.
  • Read the labels carefully since different models work on different types of pests.
  • Look at your space to determine the number of devices you’ll need.
  • Decide whether you want plug-in devices or ones with longer cords.
  • For added protection, select a brand that offers a warranty or money-back guarantee so you can return it if it doesn’t work.