In the pest control industry, few products are as controversial as ultrasonic pest repellers.
Some homeowners claim they are the end all be all pest control products, while others say they had zero effect and are an absolute scam. As the controversy rages on, I’ll share my opinion on the topic and what I have learned by testing many of them.
We’re going to discuss the current products on the market and answer the most important question, do ultrasonic pest repellers work?
The short answer to the question “do ultrasonic pest repellers work” is there is no credible scientific evidence that suggests ultrasonic pest repellers work. Additionally, in 2003, the Federal Trade Commission demanded that one of the chief marketers of ultrasonic repellents, Global Instruments, discontinue their advertising campaigns. Specifically, the campaigns that claimed these devices actually worked as advertised.
There was one stipulation though. The ban was to continue until there was “credible scientific evidence” that ultrasonic repellers actually worked.
That ban? Yeah, still going strong. Uh-oh.
Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Effects on Rodents
In 1995, a report from the University of Lincoln, Nebraska examined six studies of ultrasonic repellers. These studies had tested the repellers on rodents. The report found that all tested products were “insufficient” at repelling rodents.
At a range of decibels and frequencies. Nothing worked on the rodents for longer than a few days. The rodents adjust to the sound!
The Environmental Protection Agency actually took legal action against the makers of the products. Those companies quit marketing their ultrasonic repellers due to significant fines from the court. Deja vu, anyone?
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Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Effects on Mosquitoes
A few years after the ban was put in place, there was a meta-analysis (where you look over a bunch of similar studies) by research group Cochrane. This was important to Cochrane, which is normally interested in medicine, due to the implications for combating malaria.
Mosquitoes are a massive source of malaria. Malaria is a disease you don’t want. If you could get rid of Mosquitoes by hanging a few devices around mosquito-ridden areas, that would be a major help.
Cochrane examined ten studies that had all put electromagnetic waves to the test. These research projects tested for repellent effects and came up empty. All ten of them.
Yeah, so no good evidence that ultrasonic repellers actually worked. Double uh-oh. Cochrane actually discouraged future studies due to how little promise the existing research showed.
So at this point, you have companies still marketing ultrasonic repellers with promises that, by association, have medical applications… Promises that are scientifically incredible. Not great.
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Here’s a fun quote about Ultrasonic Pest Repellers
[There is] no scientific evidence whatsoever [that ultrasonic repellers work on mosquitoes].
-Bart Knols, an entomologist from the advisory board for the Dutch Malaria Foundation
In 2005, the British magazine Holiday conducted its own series of tests on four different ultrasonic repellers. The magazine described them all as a “shocking waste of money.” The Federal Trade Commission cracked down again, scolding the makers of one ultrasonic repeller known as the “lovebug.”
The lovebug was withdrawn from the U.S. market due to concerns that the electromagnetic waves could be harmful to babies. It was designed to be attached to baby strollers. Oh, still available in Europe though.
Are you starting to develop a certain picture of these companies yet? We are.
Home Tests of Ultrasonic Pest Repellers
In the video ultrasonic pest repellers were tested on bugs, attempting to repel them from a light source at night.
By the end of the video, you can see loads of moths and other buggies flapping madly around the repellers. It’s really quite funny.
It looks like some companies are literally selling you hunks of plastic with fancy names plastered onto them.
Some buyers have taken to analyzing the products for themselves. In this video someone tested a few repellers to see whether they emit any sound at all. Some of the repellers did make noise but did not repel mice. Others did not emit any sound at all.
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What Do the Reviews Say about Ultrasonic Pest Repellers?
So here’s something interesting. The reviews appear somewhat mixed. With all that scientific data and legal action, you’d think ultrasonic repellers had emitted their last, right?
They are alive and apparently well on Amazon. So what’s the deal? For one, there is a bit of a fake online reviews epidemic. Amazon has gotten way better at this, but we took the liberty of investigating some of the most popular ultrasonic repeller reviews.
According to our favorite fake review detector, Fakespot, the review authenticity for most repellers ranges from a C to an F. Those are school grades, folks. F is for flunk.
Fakespot will give you a number of helpful tips, including notes that reviewers have a “suspiciously positive sentiment.” Or it will acknowledge some degree of deception involved, high or low.
Nearly all of the repeller products have had over a hundred reviews deleted by Amazon (good on them), and most of the company grades don’t get very high either.
In fact, it is normal for ultrasonic repeller companies to suffer terrible reliability scores overall. Many have review authenticities estimated at a rate of 60%. To be clear, that means 40% of their total reviews are unreliable.
Some companies actually had scores of 60% unreliable reviews.
Detecting the Fake Reviews
It’s not uncommon for people to see a product, notice a 5-star rating, and click” add to cart”. But this runs the risk of overlooking some real shady business.
There are lots of examples of bad reviews. These reviews often show a sub-par grasp of English and have many typos. The strangely vague and suspiciously brief exclamations. What’s with that first one? It’s not even a review! It’s just a sentence fragment. When you combine the sketchy reviews with the sketchy history of ultrasonic repellers, you really start putting the pieces together.
What About the Good Scores?
Some companies actually had decent scores. No As, but a few Bs here and there. However, we should remind readers that no repeller (without fake reviews that is) we looked at had a score of better than a C. Even when the company itself seemed reliable, the product was never better than controversial.
As for the C-grade repellers, it looks like there are indeed some authentic reviews that do recommend the product.
So what gives?
Well, there will always be some number of good reviews for a bad product. There are all kinds of things that can happen. If the thing works one time and the buyer reviews it positively, they probably won’t come back on the site to give it a second review.
Or maybe they buy pest poisons and traps along with an ultrasonic repeller, and fail to realize that the problem is solved by the poisons and traps. Or maybe it’s a coincidence… You use it once, and some other unknown thing drives the pests out around the same time.
Like dancing on one foot to make a headache go away. Your headache was bound to disappear eventually, and you were bound to be doing something when it happened.
Hard to say, but we think that science, history, and Fakespot make for a pretty clear report. Which means…
Claims Behind Ultrasonic Pest Repellers
Ultrasonic repellers certainly don’t skimp in the boldness category. These things make some serious claims on the packaging. It will differ somewhat from brand to brand, but the general idea is this:
The device emits sounds at frequencies undetectable by humans. Short wavelength, high-frequency emissions. Humans are usually unable to hear sounds higher than 20 kHz. The human cochlea just can’t do it.
The frequencies emitted by the repellers are designed to be tuned in a precise way. They are built to drive rodents, insects, and other pests out of your home and yard. You plug one of these bad boys in and pests hit the deck. They cannot deal with the sound waves, and the torture compels them well out of your life.
Good riddance! Or is it?
Ultrasonic repellers are tuned to something like 30kHz to 55kHz. That would be in kilohertz, a unit of electromagnetic frequency. So the repellers are meant to really dish out the hertz, if you catch our frequency.
Some repellents may even advertise that they kill pests using electromagnetic waves, and are marketed at a pretty reasonable price point.
A lot of ultrasonic repellers clock in at around $20, which for a non-chemical, non-invasive, odorless, humane pest solution is… Almost too good to be true.
Which Pests Do They Supposedly Repel?
It’s a pretty long list. We’ll put it in bullets points. Repeller companies have claimed to get rid of:
Some smartphone applications actually try using this same tech to get rid of pests. Wow. Well, that just leaves the question of efficacy. To delve into the hard facts, let’s take a look at the scientific literature. Woo!
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Our Thoughts on Ultrasonic Pest Repellers
Ultrasonic pest repellers appear not to work. They are based on shaky science and they are often manufactured by sketchy companies. When using these products, we haven’t noticed any pest-repelling effects we could speak of.
It would be pretty surprising to hear a professional exterminator actually recommend one of these sad sci-fi trinkets. As cool as it would be to repel pests with inaudible super sounds, we do not recommend picking up an ultrasonic pest repeller any time in the near future.
Maybe if you need a nice paperweight or something.
What Should I Actually Do if I Have a Pest Problem?
Our site is full of pages detailing proper methods for repelling pests. From prevention techniques to buyers’ guides, we cover pest control with accuracy and style. Generally speaking, poisons and traps are your best options.
There are some humane options in the pest control world too, although unfortunately, none of the functional ones produce electromagnetic waves.
Related Article: 14 Best Ways to Get Rid of Mice
My name is Blane and I’m a life-long resident of Southeastern Louisiana. I’ve been working as Pest Control Technician and Inspector for about 1.5 years now.
I’ve worked in many other industries as well, including consulting, managing, as well as at the ground level in fields including Food Service, Corporate Automotive sales, and finance. Whether it be providing counsel, content, or hands-on support; my goal remains to add value to the lives of the people I serve.
If you have any questions regarding pest control, leave them below. I would be happy to help you out in any way I can.
12 thoughts on “Do Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Work? Here is the Truth”
I had one of these to control ants in the house and not only did it not work, it attracted spiders into the house as well
Though I was a bit hesitant at first, I ordered a couple of plug-in repellers. How I knew they worked is when I moved in with my elderly father. I plugged a couple in, and began seeing dead soldiers (roaches), especially when we were gone for lengthy periods of time (vacation). My father, who is skeptical about EVERYTHING, asked me to purchase a couple for the garage. I could not believe it as initially he didn’t think they worked.
I live in a 120-year-old farmhouse, surrounded by cropland on 3 sides. Woods directly across the road. Field mouse central, in other words. There are a couple of places in this old house I can’t reach to plug holes; that’s just the way the house was built. When I first moved in, I had mice getting into the house at times. I got a couple of Bell & Howell ultrasonic pest repellers and installed them in those inaccessible places. After that I didn’t have a single mouse in the house, until 5 years later when the repellers gave out and stopped working. Then suddenly I had a few mice gaining entry. This was 2 years ago. I ordered a couple more ultrasonic repellers, installed them, and haven’t had an indoor mouse since. That’s all the “scientific proof” I need; they work for me, though they do need replacing every now and then, like many other things you buy. I’ll be using them from here on out, there’s no question.
As an electronics tech and like Blane I have absolutely no faith in the claims made by the purveyors of these ultrasonic repellers, However my D.I.L. has a weekender that was subject to rats and mice on occasions, she installed one of these devices and left some bait out. After approx three years no sign of vermin and the bait stations remained untouched, until recently one mouse was seen inside and when I tested the unit found the ultrasonic speaker inoperative, hence no 30Khz emissions.
I`m still a great skeptic but have been commanded to repair/replace the unit. You can`t beat irrefutable logic from the other side. There are numerous anecdotes of unlikely and doubtful solutions in many fields, my concession in such cases is “if it works for you, go for it”.
An anecdotal story, my daughter managed to attract a mouse into her old car during the time she was relocating back to her hometown for work. Of course, it made a mess and she needed to get rid of it so we set a trap and in short order, it caught a rather well-fed deer mouse. End of story? Not a chance. Mice being mice, they follow the scent trail of other mice, and soon the signs of more mice returned. We trapped one more but she decided to try an ultrasonic repellant because she just couldn’t face killing them with a trap again. It did nothing and the problem persisted for another week until (sadly) the engine in her car blew apart and since it wasn’t worth fixing, she had to replace it. Problem solved!
Anyway, many thanks Blane for this and your other useful articles here. Climate change is making pest control a challenge as new species seem to be moving to locations that they never existed in before. We now have rats to contend with that were never a problem when our winters were colder. Cheers all!
Wow, it certainly is a mystery. I do not know what to think and the reason is I live in a rural area sided by farmland and the back yard meets with the woods. We have snakes, mice, spiders, a worm that is about 10 inches long that eats earthworms and looks like small baby snakes. I have found and in the National, Registry finding 2 species of moths that should not exist in the area and we have raccoons, possums, armadillos, foxes, golden eagles, hawks, mice, and more snakes. Spiders, roaches, gnats, flies, wasps, yellow jackets, honey bees, and pure nature.
Well, because roaches bother me more than a rattlesnake ( I preserve all nature and never kill) except for threats. Yellow jackets living in the ground and cause sting problems, and yes, we have black widows. Almost every kind of ant (except exotic like in rain forests), every kind of bug, lizards and the list continues.
About 7 years ago was a bad spider year. I’m not afraid of them and know how to handle them (not physically) but have studied every insect and creature we have for it’s benefit or harm to know what to do if encountered. It is simply a necessity in my area. Anyway, I purchased 2 sonic bug repellent devices, had not used chemicals or other methods prior to using the sonic devices. By the way, my wife is scared to death of spiders. Well, you’ve got to know them to get along with them… and the reason for the name “house spider” is because the Department of Agriculture says it is not bad to have a few non-toxic house spiders in the home because they can be a benefit in controlling the other bugs that get in the house. Now I will go nuts if one is crawling around on my neck and I don’t know what it is and will do a jig in high speed to get them off. But with that said, they are usually more afraid of you, still I’m not a fan of them when I can ‘t see them ON ME… ha! They do take getting use to and it is very hard not to be afraid of them unless you understand them. You can take a big spider and spray a killer on it and just leave it for several hours and you realize it is all legs. Kind of like washing your long-haired cat and find it is all fur, shockingly skinny when wet … ha!
Back to Sonic, to my amazement, IT WORKED. It worked for a year but the next year things went back to normal and I was disappointed but loved that year. No spiders or roaches… so I’m going to go with the thought animal or insect they get used to it. But for $10 for 2 sonic devices it was worth it that year.
Also, I found that some, somehow or intentionally designed work through house wiring, and our home was built in 1896. The wiring was not ideal and no congruent wiring almost in any room. Wiring was separated either controlling 2 or 3 rooms, someone room, some 2 rooms. So when I first used the devices, I did not think they would work. So, I purchased a device to detect common or shared wiring and made sure the sonic devices were connected to as many common wiring rooms as possible. Where wiring was not common, there were bugs in those rooms throughout that year. So I was convinced for that year they worked and did work.
Now, I am thinking maybe I’ll get 2 more this year though I am and always have been skeptical of the benefit and viability of them just to see if the insects have forgotten the sound. It will be a banner year for the insects because of the weather here in Alabama. Notice that I am here at this site for the very same reason you are. DO THEY WORK? Well, I’ll give them another shot and will forever not be convinced they work. Who knows, maybe psychologically, I’m plugging the devices in and sending telepathic signals to all insects and my brain gives out after a year.
So, I too will not spend more than I’d spend on a can of REAL Repelling chemicals if nothing else for the fun of trying the devices again with the feeling you have about them.
Blessings and Safety to you all,
Seriously? Drowning bees? What’s wrong with that woman?
They work for us. Pests are gone. No more gnats, flies, or other bugs and no more mice in thar garage or shed.
With regards to ultrasonic rodent repellers, I have found they will not rid you of an existing infestation, as they quickly become insured to the sound. However, if you first get rid of them using conventional means, traps, poison, then once clear, set up rodent repellers, they do seem to work. I suspect because the rodents initially don’t like the sound and will look for somewhere more ‘peaceful. I killed a dozen field mice that had taken up residence on my boat which is in long-term storage. Having killed them all I set up an ultrasonic repeller and touchwood have not had a problem with them since and that was five years ago. I didn’t really want to kill the field mice but I could not find any other way of getting rid of them.
Anne, shame on you for killing bees, they are important for biodiversity and are already in decline due to the overuse of pesticides and man-made changes to their habitat. If they disappear, plants will not get pollinated and we will all suffer then. Rather than killing them you should try to protect and nurture them. They are fascinating creatures and so long as you do not threaten them, will do you no harm.
Is there a way to control fleas on cats without harmful chemicals? We live in the country and have many feral cats which resulted in many pet cats. They keep snakes away but fleas are a huge problem, inside and out. Thank you for any advice.
Try a rescue cat to scare the mice away! I put out sugar water to catch bees (they drown in deep containers). Use websites that have cheap safe ideas that work on pests of all types.