SHAPLEIGH – Stores in Maine have been scrambling to keep up with demand for a propane-powered machine that lures mosquitoes to their death.
A long, damp spring that produced a bumper crop of the blood-sucking bugs has fueled interest in the Mosquito Magnet, as have new worries about the mosquito-borne West Nile virus. The May issue of Consumer Reports, which gave the traps a top-choice rating, also spurred demand.
Satisfied customers like Gordon and Diana Waterman say they are able, for the first time, to sit outdoors on a warm summer night at their home on Lower Mousam Lake in Shapleigh.
“It kills a lot,” said Gordon Waterman, who used to be engulfed by clouds of marauding mosquitoes, which breed in the lake on one side and a swamp on the other.
The 3-foot-tall machines attract the insects by giving off carbon dioxide, heat, moisture and a chemical that supposedly smells like cow’s breath. Once lured to the device, the mosquitoes are sucked into a trap where they dehydrate and turn to dust.
The technology has been around for years, but until recently it was expensive enough to put off most homeowners. The Mosquito Magnet took off when its manufacturer, American Biophysics in East Greenwich, R.I., came out with a $295 model called the Defender, which is effective within a half-acre. More expensive models cover larger areas.
“For people who have a lot of bugs, this works. You are still going to have bugs, but this helps,” said Bruce Lamb, owner of Springvale Hardware in Springvale.
The mosquito traps have been disappearing from shelves as fast as stores can stock them.
“We are sold out. They are reordered and back-ordered and we have been getting a lot of calls,” said Ward Cunningham at Coastal Hardware in Yarmouth.
The South Portland Home Depot store also has sold out of the traps. “We have sold about 80 already and we have about 50 more ordered,” said Kevin Axelesen, product manager.
Lisa Corcoran at Jackson’s True Value Hardware in Kittery says she tried to order some traps but so far the manufacturer has not been able to fill her order.
Jeff Haines, store manager at Kennebunk Ace Hardware, says the machines are expensive to run. He says the propane tank must be replaced every three weeks, which costs about $20, along with the bait, which costs $10. Then there is the cost of electricity to run the less expensive models 24 hours a day.
But the price does not seem to deter sales at his store, where customers tell him they are worried about West Nile virus.
“I think people do not want to deal with bug spray because of the scent and the oils, and have to do it every time they go outdoors,” Haines said.