What is the best mosquito trap you can buy?
When you buy a mosquito trap, you’re making an investment in the comfort and safety of your home. And, like any investment, you should give it careful consideration before making a decision on how to spend your money.
You will learn that not all mosquito traps are created equal. Most will attract and kill some mosquitoes. But only a few can do it consistently, for the right price, and on a scale that will help clear the biting insects from your yard.
Fortunately, scientists have performed tests on these machines to show which ones perform the best and under what circumstances. And, thanks to the global reach of the Internet, you’re able to see what customers from around the world have had to say about the mosquito traps they’ve purchased. We’re going to take a look at several of the top brands of mosquito traps commonly sold for home use, and compare those brands based on test results, reliability, and ease of use.
In the end, it will become clear that one brand of mosquito trap seems to be far superior to the rest at doing what it claims – effectively attracting and killing mosquitoes.
How mosquito traps work
First, a quick overview of the way mosquito traps work to reduce mosquito populations and protect you and your family from bites.
When hunting for bloodmeals, female mosquitoes fly about 25 feet or less off the ground, using several types of sensing organs to find human prey. Among their equipment:
- Antennae that detect the carbon dioxide released from a person’s lungs and are capable of picking up more than 340 chemical odors produced by human skin, including octenol, a substance also found in perspiration.
- Compound eyes made up of hundreds of tiny lenses designed for spotting movement and distinguishing prey, particularly useful for day-biters that rely more on visual cues. Accompanied by two light-sensitive simple eyes.
- Maxillary palpus located on the head and believed to be sensitive to heat, helping mosquitoes to located warm-blooded prey and pinpoint capillaries that are closest to the skin and more easily reached.
Mosquito traps take advantage of mosquitoes’ sensory abilities by tricking them with features that mimic the smells and visual stimuli associated with people. Various brands produce CO2, octenol, heat, or light – or a combination of those – to lure mosquitoes in, then trap them in containers where they die.
To be most effective, the traps need to be placed correctly, which means in shaded areas located between the source of the mosquitoes and where people gather in the yard. The best idea is to try it in different places until you find the right one. You’ll also need to experiment with a variety of attractants to see which ones appeal most to your local mosquitoes.
The major mosquito trap brands
When you start looking around for a mosquito trap, you’ll probably find that a handful of companies account for the majority of commercial traps available on the market.
- Mega-Catch™ – A very popular line of traps that now includes four models; the Alpha, Premier, Premier XC and Ultra. These traps are multi-attractant, run off safe 12 Volt power and rely on an integrated lighting display, infrared heat and fragrance strips to attract mosquitoes. The Ultra and Premier XC models can also use Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The Ultra Trap comes CO2 ready and contains all the hardware needed to connect the trap to a CO2 cylinder. A CO2 gas upgrade kit which is sold separately is needed to convert The Premier XC to Ultra Trap specifications, and make it CO2 capable. Made by EnviroSafe Technologies N.Z. Ltd.
- Mosquito Magnet® – This brand now consists of the Executive, Independence, and Patriot models. Earlier models which included the Defender, Pro and Liberty, attracted a number of poor reviews from customers indicating problems with start up, and propane blockage/clogging issues. The traps use CO2 together with secondary attractants in the form of Octenol or Lurex cartridges. Although some models are battery powered or electric, they all burn propane to produce CO2. Created by American Biophysics Corp., when the company went into receivership in 2006, Woodstream Corporation purchased its assets.
- Koolatron™ – (formerly Lentek™ International Inc.) – currently markets three traps including the Guardian MK14 Bite Shield (Cordless), Guardian MK12 and Koolatron™ MK05 Champion Mosquito Trap. The Guardian and Champion models are both electric and use Octenol, heat and a lighting array. The Guardian models also burn propane to produce CO2. In 2003, Koolatron™ purchased the business assets of Lentek™ International Inc., and took over the company.
- Dragonfly – This brand produces only one model, the Dragonfly II Biting Insect Trap. The trap is electric and also uses CO2 from small canisters, along with infrared heat, a night light and attractant lures. The Dragonfly II is programmable with 8 operating modes and the CO2, which is optional, is released in pulses every 5 seconds. Made by BioSensory Inc, in 2009 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of the Dragonfly II mosquito trap. The company and the CPSC said that the “carbon dioxide (CO2) pressure sensors inside these products can crack and leak or burst, causing the release of CO2.
Two other mosquito traps formerly available – the Mosquito Deleto by Coleman and the SonicWeb by Applica Consumer products – seem to be no longer on the market. That’s likely because the Deleto was recalled in 2002 over safety problems with its propane system, and the SonicWeb performed poorly in many tests.
Mosquito trap features
While different brands and models utilize different methods of attracting and killing mosquitoes, there are several common features found on mosquito traps. How well those features work, or whether they are available on all models, can vary.
Lighting arrays – The Mega-Catch has the most sophisticated of the light systems, with an array that flashes both visible and invisible spectrums at oscillating frequencies tested and proven to appeal to mosquitoes. The Dragonfly II has a night light and Koolatron traps use a blue light system. Mosquito Magnet traps do not seem to offer this feature.
Attractant lures – All four traps offer some variety of fragrance strip or lure. Mega-Catch, Dragonfly, Mosquito Magnet and Koolatron all offer Octenol strips as an accessory, which is effective on some, but not all mosquito species.
CO2 systems – Mega-Catch offers a CO2 system as an additional component of its Ultra and Premier XC traps, although testing has shown it isn’t necessary to attract all mosquito species. The Mega-Catch system has five settings that allow the owner to program a slow, timed release of CO2 from cylinders like those used in soda fountains. Mosquito Magnet and Lentek/Koolatron burn tanks of propane for CO2. Dragonfly II uses pure CO2 (in canister form).
Heat systems – All the brands use some form of heat emission to help attract mosquitoes once they are close. The heat source usually is located near the trap intake system
Catch system – Mega-Catch has one of the simpler and more reliable systems. A powerful fan catches the mosquitoes and sucks them into either a catch bag where they die, or the recommended liquid catch container holding a mixture of water, dish soap (to break the surface tension), and non-diet soda (for the fructose). The liquid catch cup does double duty, drowning the mosquitoes and helping attract even more of them by adding humidity and sweet smell. Mosquito Magnet uses a vacuum and a catch net, while Koolatron uses a capture cup. With the Dragonfly II trap, mosquitoes are vacuumed into a collection tray where they cannot escape, and within a couple of hours die of dehydration from the air passing over them.
The results of mosquito trap testing
OK, before we talk about test results, there’s one thing you need to know about mosquito traps. No matter what the brand or how effective, a mosquito trap cannot solve all your mosquito problems.
In fact, there is no single solution that will rid you entirely of the little biters.
Any given neighborhood might have dozens of different mosquito species flying around, and each species responds to different attractants. One kind might favor the color red, another the smell of a certain kind of shampoo when used by people with specific body chemistry.
Aedes mosquitoes feed on people, bite during the day and rely more on sight when seeking a meal. Culex mosquitoes usually prefer birds, when they’re available, hunt at night and track prey by smell. Some mosquitoes rarely bite people, and stick to other creatures, like frogs.
There’s no way for a mosquito trap to appeal to all those different tastes. Besides that, mosquito traps target only adult mosquitoes, while good mosquito control practices address the whole range of the insect’s life cycle.
To keep your home mosquito-free, you need to make sure there is no standing water around the yard where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Treat any decorative ponds or fountains with Mosquito Dunks to kill mosquito larvae, or stock the ponds with mosquito fish that will eat them. Encourage dragonflies to hang around because they eat mosquito larvae and the adults.
Keep the grass and bushes trimmed so mosquitoes have no place to rest during the day, and spray an insecticide if the swarms get thick. Install outdoor lighting that doesn’t attract mosquitoes; wear mosquito repellent when you go outside.
And, use a mosquito trap or two. Because, despite the fact that the machines can’t kill every mosquito, they sure do kill a bunch.
In independent testing, the Mega-Catch brand usually seems to come out on top, and the results are impressive – thousands of insects in a single night, in many cases. At those rates, it only takes about two months to collapse a local mosquito population.
Consider these tests:
- Northwest Florida – Researchers at the Florida A&M University entomology center tested several brands of traps over more than three weeks in a mosquito-infested area surrounded by salt marsh.The machines included the Mega-Catch Ultra, the Mosquito Magnet Liberty, the Dragonfly, the SonicWeb, and an earlier Lentek model. Each ran about 3.5 hours a day during the test.When it was over, the Mega-Catch trap had triumphed by killing nearly 3,000 mosquitoes compared to about 2,000 for the Mosquito Magnet. The Lentek trap got about 1,000. The rest were below 500 mosquitoes each, including the SonicWeb, which barely even registered.
- Far North Queensland, Australia – Dr. Scott Ritchie and Dr. Craig Williams, two public health researchers, tested the Mega-Catch Ultra and the Mosquito Magnet Pro for 12 nights in a grassy field near a marsh and a waste transfer station.The Mega-Catch far outperformed the other trap, killing 44,490 mosquitoes over the course of the test, while the Mosquito Magnet killed only 24,449.Interestingly enough, the researchers concluded that the Mega-Catch’s appearance might have contributed to its success, in addition to the standard attractants of light display, heat, octenol and CO2.“The visual nature of the Mega-Catch Ultra – a dark, well-defined object of similar size to a small human, calf or dog – may also prove to be attractant as well,” they reported. “It was noticed on many occasions that mosquitoes would land on the trap prior to it being switched on. At least some mosquito species use visual cues to locate hosts.”
- Central Florida – In another face-off between the Mega-Catch and the Mosquito Magnet conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Mega-Catch again proved superior.This time, the test was conducted over about three weeks at three locations: a laboratory, in a residential neighborhood, and in a wildlife refuge. The catch varied by location, but the overall result was that the Mega-Catch captured about twice the number of Aedes aegypti – the yellow fever mosquito – and a larger general variety of other mosquitoes than did the Mosquito Magnet.“The studies included in this report were my first opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of the Mega-Catch trap,” USDA researcher Dr. Daniel L. Kline wrote. “In most cases, whether baited with CO2 or not, it caught more mosquitoes than either model of Mosquito Magnet.”
Mega-Catch traps and the reliability factor
So far, the Mega-Catch has earned high marks for its nifty features and sheer mosquito-killing ability. But how does the brand stack up when it comes to ease of use and simple maintenance?
Still way ahead of the competition.
To begin with, the Mega-Catch has a long history of reliability, while other brands have had significant problems with their designs.
The Mosquito Magnet suffers from awkward engineering of the propane tank connector; the trap is known for clogged lines and, since it is powered by propane, often has trouble starting. When the manufacturers came up with a device for unblocking the lines, it, too, was defective and had to be recalled after several people were injured.
The Coleman Mosquito Deleto, which has since been taken off the market, also had serious trouble with its propane connection. The company recalled 136,000 units several years ago because a regulator allowed leaks and overflows, causing a possible fire hazard.
In addition to the inconvenience and potential dangers, it’s just more expensive to power mosquito traps and generate CO2 by burning propane. You can easily go through a tank of propane in a month, a prospect likely to become even more costly as prices continue to rise.
On the other hand, the Mega-Catch doesn’t need propane for power because it just plugs into an electrical outlet, and the Ultra model gets its CO2 from food-grade tanks that are easy to buy at any number of local businesses, simple to hook up to the trap, and cheaper, since one tank can last up to four months.
The Mega-Catch timer system also helps you save both on electricity and CO2 since you can set the trap to turn on at peak mosquito times every day, and regulate it to release small amounts of gas at pre-determined intervals.
As for maintenance, the Mega-Catch stands out in that regard, as well.
Problems with a Mosquito Magnet? You will have to pay to send the unit back to the company for an expensive replacement part. The new corporation doesn’t even offer support for some models anymore.
But with Mega-Catch, you just download the repair manual from the company Web site, and follow the simple step-by-step instructions on everything from replacing the UV bulb to installing a new power cord.
Parts are relatively inexpensive and, if defective and under warranty, are replaced free of charge.
So, there you have it.
Superior performance, more versatile features, proven reliability, and a customer-friendly design – the Mega-Catch is simply the best mosquito trap on the market.