HOM Electronic pest control? Results are dubious

Q:I have seen advertisements for electronic pest-control devices. You supposedly plug them in and spiders, ants, roaches, other bugs and mice and squirrels depart. How do they work?

A:Someone gave me one, an ultrasonic device that is supposed to drive away the bugs, mice and other creepy crawlies from the room. It is supposed to clear out 400 square feet, but the instructions say it doesn't work through walls or around corners. I plugged it in down in my basement workshop last spring and waited. And waited. And waited. My workshop doesn't get much traffic in the summer. Let that read the shop is lucky if the floor gets swept and the tools put away until it snows. This, of course, means that the spiders, primarily Daddy Long Legs -- which according to some are not spiders, but that's another story -- thrive.

Before installation of the ultrasonic device, there was the usual population which needed to be swept away occasionally. Post-device, no big difference.

Perhaps I should try a transonic, electromagnetic or ionic pest discourager -- they are all on the market. It sure would be a hassle-free, environmentally safe alternative to other methods of control. A local exterminator also doubts such devices work, especially against mice.

Alas, they don't seem to work as advertised.


According to Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota entomologist who suffers my endless questions about bugs: "I know of no research of ultrasonic devices tested against insects that indicates that these devices are effective."


It never ceases to amaze me that new products to ease home maintenance come in a never-ending stream. Inventors and entrepreneurs are constantly entering the marketplace and marketing through the Internet instead of fighting to find shelf space in retail stores. Some eventually wind up on the shelves after a prooving period.

Case in point is a product from MBS in Milwaukee that sounded like a winner. The company markets "Stout's Backsaver Grip," a spade handle-shaped gizmo that is designed to be fastened to the shaft of a long-handled tool such as a rake or snow shovel where the lower hand holds the shaft. The company claims it ergonomically eases back strain because you aren't bending over so far, increases leverage and minimizes blisters on your hand.

So we gave it a try, fastening the grip on the handle of a leaf rake. It didn't make a startling difference. However, we suspect that on a snow shovel it might be worth the $12 or $13 purchase price -- with an added $5 to $6 dollars for shipping.

We'll put it on a snow shovel when the snows come -- hopefully not until March -- and let you know how effective it is on a tool you have to lift.

You can take a look at the product at

If you have a question or comment, send to About the House, 18 First Ave. S.E., Rochester MN 55904. Or e-mail questions to Jerry Reising at You also may call 285-7739.

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