The bottom line? They just don’t work.

Advertisement

For most people, the sight of ants, roaches, spiders, centipedes, mice, bedbugs, and other vermin scurrying happily through the house is a major turn-off. We'd do just about anything to send these invaders packing. I read one story about a person who set off so many bug bombs inside her trailer that the fumes ignited and blew it up. In the parlance, that's what's known as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Blowing up your house, therefore, is not an option. What else can you do? Well, if you visit a local home center or hardware store, you'll find no shortage of sprays, traps, poisons, sticky paper, glue boards, and other vermin-dispatch devices. You can employ professional exterminators to periodically inspect and treat the house (I use Arnold Schwarzenegger because I know he'll be back.). These methods are proven to work. What does not work, though, is a futuristic-looking device that sounds so cool and high-tech you've probably bought one already – an ultrasonic pest repeller.

Available in numerous shapes, sizes, colors, and prices, ultrasonic pests repellers are designed to plug into an electrical outlet in any room you're having a problem. They "repel" vermin by emitting high frequency sound waves too high for humans to hear that supposedly make pests antsy (pun intended), convulsive, irritated, and prone to drinking lethal doses of Sweet Moscato.

A couple of issues immediately come to mind. Although ants, spiders, bedbugs, and such can sense vibrations, they don't have ears. Plus, unlike super-low frequency sound (think tricked-out, babe magnet vehicles with boom boxes that can penetrate concrete and shatter plate steel at 900 yards), high frequency sound waves travel short distances and are quickly absorbed by just about anything – carpets, curtains, towels, recliners, pillows, boxes, and piles of dirty underwear. Stick a piece of cardboard between the repeller and target and the target won't notice a thing. Ultrasonic turns ultra-useless.

Full disclosure – I once bought a pair of these things to drive squirrels out of my attic. They had set up shop in a corner, so I pointed the repellers directly at the area about six feet away and cut on the juice. Absolutely no effect. Either they detected the sound and didn't care or they didn't hear it at all. I finally had to go retro and trap the varmints. That worked.

The reason for this article is a post I ran across this week on social media – where all worldly truth resides – about the top 10 ultrasonic pest repellers. The author, obviously holding master's degrees in both Entomology and Physics, had done astoundingly thorough research to determine her rankings. She looked up "ultrasonic pest repellers" on Amazon.com, counted how many stars each device was given, and how many people had rated it. The devices with the most stars and ratings won. This boosted my confidence, because I know every single positive review on Amazon is legitimate.

Just for kicks, I clicked on one of the highest rated repellers I found there, the Bocianelli Ultrasonic Pest Repeller with five stars and 323 ratings. Wow, a pack of six costs only $29.99! The product description sounds dubious, however. For example:

  • "Ultrasonic repeller working by low frequency ultrasound wave which means it will quiet and effective." Not only is this bad grammar, repellers use high frequency waves, not low ones. Whoops!
  • "This repeller equipped microchip system and it can cover an area of 80 to 120 square meters." Bad grammar again. And just one covers almost 1,300 square-feet, almost the size of the average house? I'll use three and turn mice into fritters!
  • "Repellering many kinds of pests continuously." Nothing beats continuous repellering!
  • "Noiseless and no radiation." You mean some repellers ARE radioactive? Whoa.
  • When you click on the ratings link, you're given ratings for a shower chair. "Stain bled onto my new shower." Bummer.

Faithful readers, don't be taken in like I was. There are lots of effective ways to eliminate disgusting bugs. Your foot. A fly swatter. Boric acid. Ant trap. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ultrasonic pest repeller? Nah.

More Garden Myths Debunked