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. Noted entomologist, Dr Daniel Kline’s study: “Large Cage and Field Comparison Tests of Mega-Catch™ and Mosquito Magnet™ Traps“ revealed how these machines were capable of capturing and killing thousands of insects in a single night. And at those rates, it would only take about two months to collapse a local mosquito population.
But no matter how impressive the test results, there’s one thing you need to know about mosquito traps. Whatever the brand or how effective, a mosquito trap cannot solve all your mosquito problems. The best mosquito control program follows an integrated approach which means reducing mosquito breeding sites as well as using an effective trapping device.
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. But first, a quick overview of the way mosquito traps work to reduce mosquito populations and protect you and your family from bites.
How Mosquito Traps Work
When hunting for blood meals, 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 locate 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.
- Koolatron™ – (formerly Lentek™ International Inc.) In 2003, Koolatron purchased the business assets of Lentek International Inc., and took over the company. Made in Canada, the company currently produces four mosquito traps including the Bite Shield Guardian Pro (MK14), Bite Shield Guardian (MK12), Bite Shield Champion (MK05) and Bite Shield Protector (MK06). The Bite Shield Guardian Pro is cordless and requires batteries to initially power up the trap while the Bite Shield Guardian is corded. They both burn propane to produce CO2 and utilize other attractants including moisture, thermal imaging and optional Octenol cartridges. The Bite Shield Champion and Bite Shield Protector are both corded electric traps and use Octenol cartridges, heat and a lighting array. In addition to other attractants (Octenol, UV Light) the manufacturers claim the Bite Shield Protector produces CO2 to attract mosquitoes by way of a TiO2 coated UV tube which produces a photo-catalyst reaction.
- Mega-Catch™ – Made by EnviroSafe Technologies International Ltd. A very popular line of traps that includes four models; the Alpha, Premier, Premier XC and Ultra. These traps combine multiple attractants, run off safe 12 Volt power and rely on an integrated lighting display, infrared heat and bait strips to attract mosquitoes. The Ultra and Premier XC models can also use Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The company’s flagship Ultra Trap is their CO2 ready Trap – it just needs to be hooked up to a CO2 cylinder. However, a nifty bit of DIY technology from the company, is an after market CO2 upgrade kit for the Premier XC trap. When installed it essentially converts the trap to the same specifications and capabilities as the Ultra Trap allowing it to be connected to a CO2 cylinder.
- Mosquito Magnet® – This brand now consists of the Commander, Executive, Independence, and new for 2016, the Patriot Plus. 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.
- Dragonfly II – Developed by BioSensory Inc. The company was established in 1996 to research better attractants for biting insects and is one of the leading manufacturers of biting insect lures. Mega-Catch and Koolatron both use BioSensory Octenol attractant lures in their mosquito traps. The Dragonfly II biting insect trap, is an electric trap that 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. 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. The Dragonfly II is currently unavailable however, according to the company’s website, the latest version is currently in design
- Skeetervac® by Blue Rhino is part of Ferrellgas®. In addition to mosquito traps, the company designs and markets other outdoor appliances including BBQ grills and outdoor heaters. SkeeterVac traps are self powered i.e. they don’t require mains power. As with the Mosquito Magnet, the SkeeterVac traps combust propane to produce CO2. SkeeterVac also use “FineTune” Octenol bait chips or bait blocks as an additional attractant.
The Mosquito Deleto by Coleman and the SonicWeb by Applica Consumer products – are no longer on the market. The SonicWeb performed poorly in many tests and the Coleman Mosquito Deleto, had serious trouble with its propane connection. In 2002 the company recalled 136,000 units because a regulator allowed leaks and overflows, causing a possible fire hazard.
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 spectrum’s 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 don’t offer this feature.
Attractants – All traps offer some variety of bait strip or attractant lure as an accessory item. One of the most effective attractants, Octenol, was discovered by African researchers as a by product of their research into sleeping sickness in cattle. Since it is known that some mosquito species attack both cows and humans, USDA researchers in Florida (Kline et al. 1990) decided to try combinations of Octenol and Carbon Dioxide for pest mosquitoes. While Octenol does attract no-see-ums and mosquitoes, it greatly differs in its effectiveness of attracting different species of mosquitoes Kline et al (2007).
CO2 systems – Mosquito Magnet, Lentek/Koolatron and SkeeterVac burn tanks of propane for CO2. Mega-Catch offers a CO2 system as an additional component of its Ultra trap, 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. The Koolatron Bite Shield Protector advertising material states a novel method of CO2 generation – “TiO2 coated (UV bulb) achieves photo-catalyst principle“.
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 – Mosquito Magnet uses a vacuum and a catch net, while Koolatron uses a capture cup. All SkeeterVac traps use a sticky paper “Tac Trap” capture method while some models also have a fan that sucks the mosquitoes into a catch net inside the trap. Mega-Catch offers two different capture methods – a mesh catch bag 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 control involves more than just using a mosquito trap
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.
Any given neighborhood might have dozens of different mosquito species flying around, and each species responds to different attractants. 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. One kind might favor the color red (Aedes aegypti), another the smell of a certain kind of shampoo when used by people with specific body chemistry. There’s no way for a mosquito trap to appeal to all those different tastes. But despite the fact these machines can’t kill every mosquito, they sure do kill a bunch.
The reliability factor
The two main players, Mega-Catch and Mosquito Magnet, utilize two very different systems – CO2 vs Propane. Mega-Catch traps get high marks for nifty features and sheer mosquito-killing ability and the brand has a long history of reliability and customer satisfaction. Mosquito Magnet owners on the other hand describe horrible design and engineering issues. The propane tank connector in earlier models was 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. That’s not to say that Mosquito Magnet traps don’t catch mosquitoes because they do: “this product works when it works“. However, most customer dissatisfaction appears to be with the number of breakdowns and repair costs.
In addition to the reliability factor, propane traps are more expensive to power. 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 Dragonfly and Mega-Catch Traps don’t need propane for power because they plug into an electrical outlet, and get their CO2 from food-grade cylinders that are easy to buy or rent. And they are cheaper to run, since one tank can last 3 – 4 months.
Problems with a Mosquito Magnet? You will have to pay to send the unit back to the company for an expensive replacement part and there’s no support offered for some earlier models anymore. Mega-Catch traps are marketed as being DIY Self Serviceable; you just download the repair manual from the company website, 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 (12 months), are replaced free of charge.
So, there you have it – more versatile features, proven reliability, and a customer-friendly design – the Mega-Catch ticks all those boxes, which no doubt explains why it continues to rate as one of the best performing mosquito traps on the market.