Type “do-it yourself pest control” into an online search engine and you’re going to come back with more than one million results. (Literally. We checked.) However, finding a lot of hits on your search doesn’t necessarily mean that these methods will work. In fact, it’s usually a good idea to avoid DIY pest control.
In many cases, DIY pest control has some risks and downsides—and you may just wind up spending more in the end in an attempt to control a pest problem on your own.
Many homeowners often turn to DIY pest repellents in order to save money. And ultrasonic pest devices and plugins make a big, bold promise: effortless pest removal with the push of a button.
But these promises are largely empty. In fact, Consumer Reports advises avoiding ultrasonic pest repellents altogether, stating that in 2016, the New York Attorney General's Office sent cease and desist letters to two different manufacturers of these devices due to false advertising claims. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission has been warning consumers about ultrasonic pest control devices for decades, as manufacturers do not have the scientific evidence required to back up their claims of effectiveness.
Before you invest in an often-pricey ultrasonic pest control device, make sure you understand the distinct pros and cons of electronic "plug pest control." Let's dive deeper into more information around ultrasonic pest repellers before we offer up some ways to approach pest management in a non-aggressive way.
What is an ultrasonic pest repeller?
An ultrasonic pest repeller is an electronic pest control device that emits a high-pitched sound at a frequency that may cause discomfort to, kill, drive away or incapacitate household pests. Ultrasonic pest control solutions market themselves as easier and safer than more hands-on pest repellents and pest control options.
The devices typically get plugged into an electrical outlet. However, some devices are battery-operated for easier use in fields, gardens, sheds and other areas that aren't wired for power.
When turned on, the machine emits high-pitched sounds or high-frequency vibrations, which are typically imperceptible to human ears, although some individuals with more sensitive hearing may hear them.
What kind of pests do ultrasonic pest repellers work on?
Most ultrasonic pest repellers claim to drive away a variety of unwanted home and garden visitors, including:
- Bed bugs
- Fleas and ticks (you can even find pet collars with battery-operated ultrasonic devices embedded in them)
- Rats and mice
The claim behind ultrasonic pest repellers
The manufacturers behind ultrasonic pest control devices claim that a wide range of pest species don't like the sounds and vibrations emitted by the machines. Rather than put up with the annoying noises from the device, the pests may flee your home and garden and seek refuge in areas not blanketed by the high-frequency sounds.
A related group of pest control machines, known as "subsonic pest repellers," work in a similar fashion and use very low-frequency sounds or vibrations. The claim is the same: Unwanted animals and insects find the noise impossible to withstand and vacate the premises.
Before investing in these devices, homeowners should investigate the research that explores the efficacy of ultrasonic pest repellers.
Do ultrasonic pest repellers really work?
Despite manufacturers claiming ultrasonic machines affect all these different species, well-constructed research supporting these claims is scant.
For instance, a study on how ultrasonic pest repellers affect bed bugs found that bed bug activity did seem to change slightly when the devices were running. However, in the end, there was no statistical difference when compared to not using an ultrasonic pest repeller.
Similarly, a 2015 study conducted by the University of Arizona concluded that, although the number of patents for ultrasonic pest repellents had increased over the years, commercially available ultrasonic pest devices were not an effective means of treating pest problems.
And even when they do work, the effects are short-lived. For instance, a study of rodent repellent devices for the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Wildlife Research Center found that rodents stopped responding to the ultrasonic sounds after just a few days of exposure.
Sometimes, ultrasonic devices don't just fail to chase away pests. They might even have the unintended effect of doing exactly the opposite and making pest problems worse. A study recorded in the Journal of Vector Ecology investigated the impact that ultrasonic pest repellers had on mosquitoes. When turned on, the devices actually increased the rate of mosquito bites by 50 percent.
Technically, the behavior of pest species like cockroaches or rodents can be influenced or impacted by certain ultrasonic sounds, especially when administered in a laboratory in a very specific way. But this is a level of technology and application that is not commercially available nor easy to apply in a home and garden setting.
While some ultrasonic repellents may have a minor short-term impact on some pests, the research is nearly universal: Ultrasonic pest repellers are not an effective option for preventing or eradicating pests.
Are ultrasonic pest repellers safe for pets?
Most ultrasonic pest repellers emit sounds above 20 kilohertz (kHz). When it comes to your pets, the level of frequency they can hear depends on what type of animal they are.
For example, pet rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and other pet rodents can hear sounds up to 90 kHz. Cats can hear up to 60 kHz. Dogs can pick up sounds up to 40 kHz.
It's not so much whether or not your pets can hear these ultrasonic pest repellers; the bigger concern is whether or not the sounds can harm your animals.
There may be cause for concern about long-term neurological damage because, unlike pests, your pets live in your home and cannot leave the vicinity of these ultrasonic devices. However, there has been no clear research investigating the long-term effects on dogs, cats and other popular pet species. If you have pets, talk to your veterinarian about these devices prior to buying one.
Other pest control options
There's an old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These words of wisdom apply to ultrasonic pest repellers.
By hiring an experienced pest management company, not only will it take the necessary actions to manage your pesit will give you insider tips on what you can do to keep them from becoming a problem in the first place, such as:
- Learning about the behaviors of the pest you're struggling with and modifying your home and landscape to make it unwelcoming to that specific pest.
- Sealing cracks and openings into your home, such as vents, drains and window frames.
- Removing clutter and sources of food in and around your home that may be attracting pests.
- Eliminating hiding spots around your home and landscape where pests might find shelter and reproduce.
If you're struggling with a pest problem and don't know where to start, you don't have to tackle your pest concerns on your own. Talk to a trained pest control professional at Terminix® instead. Our trained technicians can help you to identify the specific pests you're dealing with, educate you on the behaviors and habits of these pests and put together a comprehensive control and protection plan.