Looking to eliminate unwanted pests without relying on toxic chemicals? Ultrasonic pest repellers are often touted as a green alternative, but before you invest your money, it’s crucial to ask: Do ultrasonic pest repellers work? Spoiler alert — they might not be the miraculous solution you hope for.
Short on time and just want to buy an ultrasonic pest repeller? Here are our top picks:
What is Ultrasonic Pest Control?
Ultrasonic or electronic pest control is a form of electronic pest management that is designed to emit short-wavelength, high-frequency sound waves.
The idea is that these high-pitched sounds are imperceptible for human hearing, while 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 are known to exhibit the response, such as:
If this plug-in pest repellent works, the pests will leave your property, so you can enjoy it without having to use chemicals or deal with traps.
Most ultrasonic bug repeller devices are small, can be plugged 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.
Ultrasonic Pest Repellers: Do They Work?
In short, scientists don’t recommend ultrasonic pest repellers. But 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 could do.
In 2001, the FTC warned manufacturers and retailers that their claims on what these devices can do must be backed by scientific evidence. Since then, many studies have been conducted to see if these marketing claims withstand scientific testing.
What Science Says About Ultrasonic Pest Control
Scientists, in addition to the FTC, have questioned the efficacy of the devices. Here are three studies we found and what they conclude about these devices:
The University of Arizona (UA) published a study in 2015 and concluded that, although there has been an increase in the availability of these products, the commercially available ultrasonic pest devices were not effective in controlling pest problems.
The Journal of Economic Entomology published a study in 2012 on the effect of ultrasonic repellers on bed bugs. The study determined that “commercial devices producing ultrasound are not a promising tool for repelling bed bugs.”
Kansas State University (KSU) conducted another study on ultrasonic pest repellents that 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 the types of pest problems and the specific unit or device impacted whether it was effective at repelling the insects. It is also worth mentioning that most tests were conducted in controlled conditions inside a laboratory, and the effectiveness of these devices in the “real world” (with other background noises) is unknown.
What a Pest Control Expert Says About Ultrasonic Pest Control
The verdict on how well plug-in pest control works is still out. 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.
“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 the roaches and other 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. For him, these products are a waste of money.
What Homeowners Say About Ultrasonic Pest Control
A popular YouTuber conducted an ultrasonic pest repeller review. He used an ultrasonic rodent repeller, and his results correlate with Anthony’s description. In his video, Metaspencer observes that the mice stayed away for the first few days but then returned to lick peanut butter off one of the ultrasonic devices.
Other users report that the high-pitched sound from these devices can damage hearing aids and alarm systems (and even cause interference in phone calls).
Are Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Safe for 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 ultrasonic rat-repellent devices?
Let’s start with dogs. Most dogs are safe from the impact of ultrasonic waves. They hear them, but most dogs are not impacted. Some dog collars even come with battery-operated ultrasonic flea and tick repellents. If your dog completely ignores it, then you should be fine. However, if you have a dog with a nervous disposition, there are some warning signs you can look for.
Possible signs of distress:
- If your dog seems confused
- Has its head tilted toward the device
- Starts running around, trying to find where the sound is coming from
- Is whining or barking
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 have a reaction. Again, there are so many different types of devices that it is possible that some could cause some stress.
An important note: Ultrasonic pest repellers should be avoided in homes with pets such as hamsters, rabbits, and other domesticated rodents, as the sound will cause distress in your pet.
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.
Factors that affect the price of ultrasonic pest control devices:
- Single or multi-packs: Most of them come in packs of two, four, or six devices. So, the number that you get can impact the price.
- Purpose: 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.
- Features: Another factor affecting the price is the features of the device. For example, the CLEANRTH CR008 Advanced is currently $60 on Amazon and claims to reach 7,000 square feet. It also allows you to target specific rodents or switch up high-frequency sounds to further confuse the critters. 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.
Tips for Picking an Ultrasonic Repeller
Although the overall evidence is inconclusive as to how effective ultrasonic pest control really is, there is anecdotal evidence pointing to some types of devices working on some types of pests to some extent. Still, some people swear by it, while others, including many pest control experts, do not believe it works at all. The only way to tell if it will work for you is to give it a try yourself.
But before you do, 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. Here are a few tips for picking an ultrasonic repeller:
- 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.
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.
FAQ About Ultrasonic Pest Control
How Long Does it Take for Ultrasonic Pest Repellers to Work?
It can take about two weeks to notice any impact from ultrasonic repellers.
Why Can’t I Hear the Ultrasonic Pest Repellers?
Your eardrum can’t vibrate fast enough. The human ear can hear sounds that range from 20 Hz (hertz) to 20 kHz (kilohertz). Ultrasounds have a frequency greater than 20 kHz.
Can Pets Hear Ultrasonic Pest Repellers?
Yes, pets such as dogs, cats, pet rodents, and rabbits can hear ultrasonic frequencies. So, should you be concerned if you have pets at home?
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, these ultrasonic frequencies can cause distress in rabbits and pet rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs. Dogs and cats aren’t usually bothered by it.
Does the FTC Think Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Work?
The FTC only thinks ultrasonic pest repellers work if the companies produce adequate evidence. In 2001, the FTC warned manufacturers and retailers that their claims on what these devices can do must be backed by scientific evidence.
Since then, scientists have done studies on the efficacy of these devices. As we’ve mentioned, studies from UA, The Journal of Economic Entomology, and KSU have noted low or no reduction in pest activity for most of the pests they studied. Scientists from the University of Arizona don’t recommend the use of ultrasonic pest repellents to treat common pests.
When To Call A Pest Control Professional
If you want effective pest control but don’t want to handle chemical pesticides yourself, hire a trusted professional. Some pest control services also specialize in eco-friendly options. A reputable pest control company will know how to get rid of your pest problem with no harm to your family or pets.
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: Pixabay