Ultrasonic Pest Control: Does It Work or Waste Your Money?

mouse peeking over fence

Removing pests from lawns, garages, and property is an ongoing battle that often involves a small arsenal of weapons, including toxic chemicals. But for those who would rather avoid these toxins, finding a solution is a must – and that’s where ultrasonic pest control comes in. But does it work or waste your money?

Short on time and just want to buy an ultrasonic pest controller?  Here are our top picks:

What is Ultrasonic Pest Control?

Ultrasonic devices are meant to do away with the need for chemicals and traps.
Photo Credit: Billion Photos / Canva Pro / License

Ultrasonic pest control is a form of electronic pest management that is designed to emit short-wavelength, high-frequency sound waves. 

The idea is that, while these sounds are too high in pitch for the human ear to hear, certain animals and pests who are in tune with high-frequency sounds can hear them. These ultrasonic sound waves will supposedly trigger what’s called an audiogenic seizure response. 

Many animals are known to exhibit the response,  such as:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels
  • Wasps
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bed bugs 

If this plug-in pest repellent works, they will leave your property so you can enjoy it without having to use chemicals or deal with traps.

Photo Credit: Shop8447 / Openverse / CC 1.0

Most ultrasonic pest repeller devices are small, plug into your electrical outlet, and are about the same size as a baby monitor or miniature alarm clock. They come in both corded and cordless varieties. And you can purchase packs of them since their range of sound only goes so far.

Devices that require electricity will have a broader range than those that do not; however, neither type can travel through walls. So if you have multiple rooms to cover, you’ll need additional devices.

Do Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Work?

That’s a question that is certainly up for debate. After these devices first became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought enforcement action against six ultrasonic pest control manufacturers that they believed made false claims about what these devices can do.

In 2001, the FTC warned manufacturers and retailers that their claims on what these devices can do must be backed by scientific evidence. Since then, many studies have been conducted to see if these marketing claims withstand scientific testing.

What Science Says About Ultrasonic Pest Control

Scientists, in addition to the FTC, have questioned the efficacy of the devices. Here are three studies we found and what they conclude about these devices:

The University of Arizona (UA) conducted a study in 2015 and concluded that, although there has been an increase in the availability of these products, the commercially available ultrasonic pest devices were not effective in controlling pest problems.

The Journal of Economic Entomology conducted a study in 2012 on the effect of ultrasonic repellers on bed bugs. The study determined that “commercial devices producing ultrasound are not a promising tool for repelling bed bugs.”

A Kansas State University (KSU) study on ultrasonic pest repellents looked at a variety of insects to see what kind of effect ultrasonic devices had if any as an insect repellent. It offered the following information:

  • Cockroaches and Yellow Jackets: Marginal results
  • Cat fleas: One out of three devices worked
  • Spiders and ants: No impact
  • Crickets: Two of the four devices worked

Ultimately, the study concluded that both the type of pest problem and the specific unit or device impacted whether it was effective at repelling the insects

What a Pest Control Expert Says About Ultrasonic Pest Control

If this is a product you are interested in, do your research on companies first, and purchase from one that does have a good reputation. But keep in mind that the verdict is still out on how well they work. In fact, many in the pest control industry say that they don’t work at all.

Anthony Esposito, owner of The Bug Reaper Pest Control in Houston says that he’s been called into numerous properties where there has been a pest infestation, despite the use of ultrasonic pest control devices. He says that they are a waste of money.

“Here’s a great analogy,” he said. “Have you ever walked into a store where a bell rings to alert the staff that you’re there? Over time, the staff doesn’t even pay attention because that sound has become a part of their daily routine. Sure, they’ll say ‘hello and welcome to…’ but they usually just do it without even thinking about it.”

Anthony says that the same goes for pests. The sound of a pest device may startle them the first few times they hear it, but they get used to it and soon they’ll start to ignore it.

A popular YouTuber reviewed ultrasonic pest control as a mouse repellent and his results correlate with Anthony’s description. In his review, Metaspencer observes that the mice stayed away for the first few days, but then returned to actually lick peanut butter off of one of the ultrasonic devices. Some rodent repeller.

Can Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Harm Pets?

Since ultrasonic pest control devices operate at higher sound frequencies, we humans can’t hear them. But what about our pets? Could dogs, cats, birds, and other pets feel distressed by these rodent repellent devices?

Let’s start with dogs. Most dogs are safe from the impact of ultrasonic waves. They hear them, but most dogs are not impacted. However, if you have a dog with a nervous disposition, there are some warning signs you can look for.

  • Possible signs of distress:
    • If your dog seems confused 
    • Has its head tilted toward the device 
    • Starts running around trying to find where the sound is coming from 
    • Is whining or barking
  • If your dog completely ignores it, then you should be fine.

Cats and birds should not be bothered by the sounds either. However, like dogs, when you first try out the device, you’ll want to monitor these pets to see if they do have a reaction. Again, there are so many different types of devices that it is possible that some could cause some stress.

Ultrasonic pest repellers should be avoided in homes with pets such as hamsters, rabbits, and other “domesticated rodents” as the sound will cause distress in your pet.

How Much Does Ultrasonic Pest Control Cost?

The cost of ultrasonic pest control devices can vary from as little as $10 up to nearly $100. The reason there is such a big discrepancy in price is that you have a variety of options here. 

Factors that affect the price of ultrasonic pest control devices:

  1. Single or multi packs: Most of them come in packs of two, four, or six devices. So the number that you get can impact the price. 
  2. Purpose: Different devices serve different purposes. Some are intended to ward off virtually any type of pest, whereas some ultrasonic devices are targeted for specific pests such as rodents, insects, birds, or deer. The type(s) of pests that the devices ward off can impact the price.
  3. Features: Another factor affecting the price is the features of the device. For example, a device that is currently $60 on Amazon claims to reach 7,000 square feet. It also allows you to target specific rodents or switch up the high-frequency sounds to further confuse the pests. This device also comes with a one-year warranty.

One of the cheaper ultrasonic pest control options on Amazon goes for $9.99 for a six-pack of devices. However, these only have an 800 to 900 square meter range and appear to be best suited for indoor use. You are also limited in their placement because they plug directly into electrical outlets (similar to a night light).

Some of the middle-range devices (average price around $25) come with a cord so you have more control over the placement, which may be especially important outdoors where you have fewer outlets available.

Tips for Picking an Ultrasonic Repeller

Photo Credit: xanatos1000 from Pixabay / Canva Pro / License

This is the big question on many people’s minds. The concept sounds fantastic. No chemicals AND no pests. Could it really be so?

The evidence is inconclusive as to how effective ultrasonic pest control really is. Some people swear by it, while others, including many pest control experts, do not believe it works at all. The scientific evidence points to some types of devices working on some types of pests to some extent.

Really, the only way to tell if it will work for you is to give it a try yourself. But before you do, here are a few tips:

  • Research brands and choose one with a good reputation.
  • Read the labels carefully since different models work on different types of pests.
  • Look at your space to determine the number of devices you’ll need.
  • Decide whether you want plug-in devices or ones with longer cords.
  • For added protection, select a brand that offers a warranty or money-back guarantee so you can return it if it doesn’t work.

Like any other type of product, where you purchase it matters. There are a few key market participants who are reputable companies that are truly looking to create a device that is both eco-friendly and effective. However, there are also a lot of copycat companies that are simply out to make a quick buck.

FAQ About Ultrasonic Pest Control

How Long Does it Take for Ultrasonic Pest Repellers to Work?

It can take about two weeks to notice any impact from ultrasonic repellers.

Why Can’t I Hear the Ultrasonic Pest Repellers?

Your ear drum can’t vibrate fast enough. Humans hear sounds that range from 20 Hz (hertz) to 20 kHz (kilohertz). Ultrasounds have a frequency greater than 20 kHz.

Can Pets Hear Ultrasonic Pest Repellers?

Yes, pets such as dogs, cats, pet rodents, and rabbits can hear ultrasonic frequencies. So, should you be concerned if you have pets at home?

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, these ultrasonic frequencies can cause distress in rabbits and pet rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs. Dogs and cats aren’t usually bothered by it.

Do Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Work?

Ultrasonic pest repellers do not provide a useful degree of protection for most pests.

KSU tested ultrasonic devices on several arthropods, including cat fleas, cockroaches, spiders, crickets, and ants, but the result was only a “fair” overall efficacy rating at best

What about rodents? According to a study published in 1995, ultrasonic rodent repellent devices had a “marginal” initial rate of repellency (30 percent to 50 percent), but no noticeable repellent effect after three to seven days.

According to KSU, the ultrasonic pest repellent devices they tested were most effective at reducing the reproductive capacity of the Indian meal moth, which is a common pantry pest. Their tests noted a 46% reduction in the number of Indian meal moth larvae produced when these moths were exposed to ultrasounds.

Is there hope for the future of ultrasonic pest repellers? UA notes that “devices developed by researchers demonstrate positive results, but have yet to be marketed.” Stay tuned. These devices may have a useful future in your home after all.

Does the FTC Think Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Work? 

Only if the companies produce adequate evidence. In 2001, the FTC warned manufacturers and retailers that their claims on what these devices can do must be backed by scientific evidence. 

Since then, scientists have done studies on the efficacy of these devices. As we’ve mentioned, studies from UA, The Journal of Economic Entomology, and KSU have noted low or no reduction in pest activity for most of the pests they studied.

When To Call a Pest Control Pro

If ultrasonic devices aren’t the key to solving your pest problems but you still want to avoid toxins, hire a professional that specializes in eco-friendly pest control.

Pest Gnome participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Pest Gnome may earn revenue from products promoted in this article.

Main Photo Credit: Alexas Fotos from Pexels / Canva Pro / License

Jennifer Lester

Jennifer Lester is a freelance writer and social media strategist who covers a variety of home and garden topics. She’s a graduate of Texas A&M University and the proud mom of three boys. In her spare time, she volunteers in her community and her children’s schools.