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Devices to Prevent Mosquito Bites

bug zapper
Bug Zapper is one way to control mosquitos.

Mosquito larvae require a moist or wet environment to develop. They breed in wetlands, stagnant pools of water, tree holes, discarded tires, and a variety of other artificial receptacles that retain water. The abundance of rainy weather has provided breeding locations in urban and rural areas of eastern Nebraska.

Mosquitoes are annoying when we spend time outdoors. But they also can carry diseases, like West Nile virus (WNV), which is currently the most important mosquito-vectored disease in the U.S. It first appeared in the U.S. in 1999. It is believed 80 percent of people acquiring WNV from the bite of an infected mosquito show no symptoms of the disease. Infrequently, WNV can cause encephalitis or meningitis, which can be serious. From 2001-2009, there were more than 1,100 deaths in the U.S. attributed to WNV. Most of these deaths were people older than 65; most of the rest were people with underlying health problems.

West Nile encephalitis primarily circulates in a bird-mosquito cycle when birds are nesting in spring and early summer. By late June, the mosquitoes begin feeding on humans and other animals. The most capable vector of WNV in Nebraska is Culex tarsalis, a mosquito found in Nebraska and the western U.S.

UNL Extension recommends people use repellents to prevent mosquito bites. For details about repellents, check out the article "Nebraska Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases".

Instead of using repellents, many people think it would be easier to use some sort of device to capture or repel mosquitoes. Unfortunately, not all devices on the market are very effective.

There are three types of devices sold to kill or repel mosquitoes:

  • Mosquito Magnet® — The Mosquito Magnet® does attract and entrap mosquitoes. It uses propane to produce carbon dioxide to attract mosquitoes. Octenol, another attractant, is recommended to increase the trap catch. But, consumers will find it is a very expensive way to kill mosquitoes—about $350 - $500 plus the continual cost of propane and octenol. There have been reports of Mosquito Magnets® being fussy and not reliable. Before you buy one, it would make sense to see if you can rent one to see if it works for you.

  • Bug Zappers — Electrocuting devices, popularly known as "bug zappers," emit ultraviolet light (UV) which attracts insects. But, bug zappers do not discriminate between insects...they only kill insects attracted to UV light. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are not very attracted to UV light and make up less than one percent of the insects killed by these devices.

  • Ultrasonic Devices — High-frequency ultrasonic devices are advertised to repel mosquitoes. Most of these ultrasonic mosquito repelling devices are battery operated, portable and sold in wristband, belt clip-on, table-top, or in keychain-style models. Studies show ultrasonic devices do not prevent mosquito bites. They do not cause mosquitoes to flee from the sound. 

Barb Ogg
Former Extension Educator, Entomology
Barb Ogg shared her love of entomology with clientele throughout Nebraska for many years through Nebraska Extension. Barb retired in 2015.

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