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READ before buying Springstar!
on March 6, 2009
A year after my previous review created a minor stir on the internet, I'm back to report what I've learned. I've learned so much that I'm doing away with the old review, but copying it to this review's own "Comments" section for archival purposes.
I'm now positive that the Springstar (non-)"trap" is obsolete.
First, the results of my experiment with laying metal cans all over my property (tops cut off) partly filled with rainwater (to lure mosquitoes into laying), then dumping the water on a regular basis (no lures, poison, soap, or anything but nasty rainwater and tin cans): unsuccessful, due to me not finding a remaining area of stagnant water, which ended up being a drainage tube beneath a road bordering my property. The roadworkers needed to 'dig down' beneath the normal soil level to get the pipe in, which left standing water in there, and made the pipe easy to miss. No amount of "traps" elsewhere compensated for that, neither Springstar "traps" nor my DIY knock-offs!
But I overcame it.
Here is what I learned.
RULES FOR GETTING RID OF MOSQUITOES (without buying an expensive machine):
- Find ALL areas of standing water.
I know this is obvious, but you have to SEARCH proactively. One missed area cost me a summer of enjoying the outdoors.
- Eliminate the areas of standing water that you can.
You may not be able to get rid of them all. But do what you can. Tires, junk, bad roof gutters, etc..
- Now for the breakthrough: USE A NON-TOXIC ANTI-MOSQUITO PRODUCT IN STANDING WATER YOU CAN'T GET RID OF.
I'd tried to take a bucket and bail out that drainage pipe, and after about 5 bails, I realized it was futile. It set me to creative/desperate thinking....
I realized I had a 1 ounce bottle of "Precor" brand concentrate. Precor is a brand name for a dilution of S-Methoprene, which is an "Insect Growth Regulator", or "IGR" for short. An IGR is a hormone that essentially keeps baby mosquitoes from turning into adolescent mosquitoes (and therefore adult, biting mosquitoes). Doesn't kill them, just prevents them from becoming mature, flying biting insects. Precor is marketed as an anti-flea spray solution, to spray on your carpets and furniture so any flea eggs hatching there will never mature into adults (and bite you). A little research yielded the fact that this S-Methoprene is also sold as a product to do the same on mosquitoes (and other insects). One product I found is known as "PreStrike Mosquito Torpedo" made by Wellmark. It's a little fishy-shaped nugget you drop into standing water. It sinks to the bottom and time-releases S-Methoprene into the water, "up to" 2 months, 1 fishy per certain amount of water, more fishies if necessary.
Instead of ponying up for the fishies right away, I decided to use my otherwise-wasted Precor to see what the results would be. (The Precor was wasted because a stray dog I picked up and found a home for had fleas which were smart enough to stay on the doggie, and never bred anywhere but on the dog.) I diluted the Precor per manufacturer directions (1 ounce per 1 gallon of water), cutting the recipe in half. I found that using a spray bottle (properly labeled with cautions) helped me squirt the recipe far into the drainage tube. 1 ounce (1 gallon diluted) treats 1000 square feet of carpet, so I used a commensurate amount in the stagnant, shallow water. I started early in the year, after the last freeze and reapplied after rains. With the expressly-made methoprene dunks, reapplying's not as necessary, but you may need to use more than the minimum amount to 'recharge' the new standing water.
My home is now a different place outdoors. Can you imagine what it's like with no mosquitoes. It's not summer yet, but at the end of April, with all the other insects going gangbusters, one strain is notably missing. It's awesome. And I found, I don't mind bugs so much. Just mosquitoes. They give other bugs a bad name.
Let me tell you about "Mosquito Hawks" for a second, because they're NOT mosquitoes at all. They look like HUGE mosquitoes, and I'm sure you've seen them (web search an image to see). I still had tons of them, so I did some research. I thought they were male mosquitoes (only females bite animals), but they're not. They're actually called Crane Flies. They DON'T eat mosquitoes. They don't even breed in water--they eggs are laid in soil and eat grass roots, which is why I still have lots of those. But I don't mind them, because they DON'T bite. They're either vegetarians, or don't eat at all after they turn into fliers, they just want to mate. They're dumb, clumsy, and harmless. So don't worry about those. Mosquitoes have the same body shape, but are small.
Diluted methoprene is not dangerous to mammals (including humans, dogs and cats), and apparently not birds either (Prestrike advertises it for use in birdbaths, though I'd use a bacterial "donut" dunk for those, read on), nor does it affect our hormones--only insects. It's one of the less-harmful ingredients in flea collars, and there are Methoprene "dip" products designed to stop fleas' life cycle inside pet fur, but I digress. Of course you or pets shouldn't have direct contact with it or drink it, duh; direct contact with the solution is listed as "harmful" on the product's warnings. Methoprene will disrupt the maturation of other insects exposed to it, particularly other water-breeding insects like dragonflies, which also eat mosquitoes. So use it carefully--but you will, because it's not cheap. Literature does seem to suggest it degrades in direct sunlight. But the time-release nature of the Mosquito Torpedoes probably counteracts that. In my case, the water was almost entirely inside a dark drainage pipe.
I discovered that there are 2 basic alternatives to PreStrike Mosquito Torpedoes, which seems to be in a class all its own (only PreStrike seems to make methoprene-based treatments marketed against mosquitoes):
- Bacteria-based "donuts" generally called "Mosquito Dunks" which float on the water and time-release bacteria which kill baby mosquitoes. Search Amazon for these. These special bacteria eat growing mosquitoes, but not you. In fact, the MSDS amazingly states, "No hazardous or toxic components". There's a CYA warning on the product packaging, but when was the last time you saw an MSDS with no warning at all? The reason I didn't get them is because they float, and I'm concerned they'll be washed over the lip of that drainage ditch during rains. I wonder if their floating aspect is necessary for the bacterial action to work. I'd think they'd be difficult to skim out of decorative ponds, and confuse the issue of how many were deployed. Still, this is probably the least nature-disrupting solution, especially for fish ponds, as fish are sensitive to just about anything. (There's also a mosquito larva-eating fish breed, BTW).
- Natural plant-based products which repel and/or kill water-borne insects. Most commonly, these include garlic juice, garlic being a natural pesticide (repels and kills). Natural oils used in combination or separately include lemongrass, mint, and others. These are most commony sold as mosquito "granules" or "bits", usually being ground corncob, wound straw, or other benign carrier soaked in the scenty stuff. Amazon terms to search would be "Mosquito" plus: Granules, Bits, Repellant, or Treatment. Or maybe just search "mosquito". These seem to be marketed for people with large areas of standing water, like farmers with irrigation ponds. It makes sense. Some of these products say you can sprinkle them right on the ground, and repel mosquitoes in the yard itself, viz. "Dr. T's Mosquito Repelling Granules", which contains Lemongrass Oil, Peppermint, and Garlic, boasting a "pleasant aroma". Sounds almost like I'm going out to dinner. I haven't tried this product--I don't need to. I just thought the active ingredients (all mixed into clay) were very creative and compelling, and I nearly bought it before discovering what I use now.
Products in these bullet points above are admittedly more natural and probably better-suited for treating large areas. I'm targeting a small, specific area of standing water which I'm extremely serious about. My concern was driving the breeding mosquitoes to find other patches of water off my property, then later as flyin adults returning to feed on me. Mosquitoes have an extremely keen sense of smell, and although the garlic stuff will kill skeeter larvae, the mommy mosquitoes will be turning up their noses at the garlicky water. I figure: if I can't get rid of standing water, I might as well use it to my advantage, and use a product which mommy mosquitoes won't be any-the-wiser about, but which will essentially 'abort' their unfortunate offspring. IGR's don't actually kill the skeeter pupae. So it's arguably not even a pesticide. They just stay kids forever, and eventually die naturally, still in the water. Think of it as my compromise between the uber-natural garlic-soaked corncobs, and a nasty pesticide.
In keeping with the Springstar lure ("trap") idea, I wondered if a Springstar-like contraption could be made at home, but dramatically improved. One could even use their already-owned Springstar jug, but any stable container would do. One could drop a chunk of those PreStrike Mosquito Torpedoes or bacterial Mosquito Dunks into one or more deliberate containers of standing water. You'd really have to trust your product though, as you'd see all kinds of wrigglers, and wouldn't have a way of confiming whether they're really hatching, except if you getting bitten, and by then it's too late. But, some may want to experiment with this. The dunkers would be far cheaper for that purpose, and you'd need to be committed to a schedule.
However, either the Dunks or the Torpedoes in a container of deliberately stagnant water would seem to me loads better than the Springstar approach, which has YOU put in (your own) dish soap to kill the wrigglers (with little to misleading information on how much soap), and only provides a pack of dried grass and Octenol sex lure powder, which (octenol) wears off after awhile. Springstar should bring their "traps" up to speed by simply providing their jugs with some Dunks, and skipping on the whole dishwashing soap scheme entirely (see my original review archived in my "Comments" for detailed info). I really think the mini packet of dried grass is silly; who doesn't have dried leaves or vegetation around to mix into the water? Isn't it more important to provide an exact amount of this dish soap they call for? However, the octenol is a good (if unnecessary) idea if you're going down that road, and you can get Octenol "refills" in a variety of forms. Why not have a container with either the Bacilis Thuringiensis bacteria or S-Methoprene in combination with an Octenol pheremone lure to do things right? (Springstar should give me a royalty on this... watch them do it.)
The Springstar "trap" (lure) is just a plastic jug with a screw-off top and two holes in the side for skeeters to fly in and lay eggs. The cap is to keep rain from overflowing it. There's a mini packet of dried grass, and one of octenol lure powder, and something approximating instructions. The idea is the female mosquitos will fly in through the holes, lay eggs, LEAVE (it's not a trap, and skeeter are smart), and that the eggs WILL hatch, but that the dish soap in the water (provided by you!) will kill the larvae. There's insufficient guidance on how much dish soap to use, and if you don't use enough, and don't inspect regularly enough, you could have a mosquito BREEDING factory. Using an IGR instead of dish soap would make heaps more sense! But I think this contraption would still have a hard time justifying its existence. Again, read my archived review if you want more info on how this non-trap is supposed to operate. But in light of my information above, the Springstar mosquito "trap" is really a silly, unsightly, difficult to use, obsolete and (if used in the recommended numbers) expensive idea which Springstar (an otherwise respected name in pest control?) should have the courage to stop selling. If your product isn't cheaper or better or easier to use than the competition, why be in the game? Just to prey off peoples' ignorance? Well, anyone who just read this review is no longer ignorant.