By Erica Westly | December 18, 2008
Credit: Scurzuzu via Flickr Creative Commons
And if you’re wondering about this inflatable rat, it’s a strike thing.
So, I live in an old house in Brooklyn that has lots of nooks and crannies. You know what that means? Mice and rats, that’s what. In the two years I’ve lived in this house, there have been several rodent sightings. On two occasions, mice have crawled into the kitchen to die: One croaked under the table while another chose the back of the stove for its final resting place. Then, a few months ago, we realized a rat had built a nest, complete with a collection of eight to ten chicken bones, under the floor of the downstairs bathroom. Our landlord filled the nest with concrete, but–surprise!–this morning one of my roommates discovered a rat, possibly the same one, under the kitchen sink.
Clearly, the house needs to be sealed up better. That’s priority one. But completely filling every hole in the house seems impossible, and as construction in the neighborhood increases so will the number of rodents and insects trying to make their way into the house. My roommate has a dog, so, understandably, she doesn’t want to use any kind of poison inside or in the yard. As I watched yet another ad for the plug-in devices that supposedly ward off pests with unpleasant ultrasonic sounds I wondered, in that lazily optimistic way all suckers possess, is it possible any of these things work?
It doesn’t take much time searching online to realize that, no, the manufacturers of these devices provide no evidence that their products work. Meanwhile, there are several university reports that suggest the devices don’t work at all. Yet, somehow, sham companies have been marketing the things for decades despite having been warned by the Federal Trade Commission several times that they have to provide concrete data to support their claims. Why am I still seeing ads for them on TV, then?
What really interests me, though, is not so much how the companies manage to avoid fraud charges but how this idea of repelling rodents, birds, and insects with sound first got started and why it’s still so popular. From the preliminary research I’ve done, it looks like agriculture researchers started talking about using acoustics to repel birds back in the 1960s. Then, maybe some marketing people decided to capitalize on the idea and sell them to homeowners as pest repellents?
Unfortunately, for our house in Brooklyn, I think the only solution involves an exterminator, but we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for new pest control technology. After all, aren’t the climate change researchers predicting the world’s rodent and insect problems are going to skyrocket in the next fifty years or so? Something tells me Raid and glue traps just aren’t going to cut it.