Do ultrasonic pest repellers work?

Pestill 4-in-1 ElectroSonic Pest Repeller – Fit For Purpose?

March 28, 2020
3 mins read

Some gadgets save us time and cash and offer genuine solutions. Others are a complete waste of plastic. GARY STEEL assesses on a case-by-case basis.


Do ultrasonic pest repellers work?

There’s nothing like a viral lockdown to make you focus on the important things, like those wee gadgets and doodads that make life easier. Or in some cases, prove to be totally fucking useless.

Such is the case with Pestill’s 4-in-1 ElectroSonic Pest Repeller.

I’d heard that these plug-and-destroy insect scarers didn’t work, but my middle name isn’t ‘Gullible’ for nothing. (It’s not really, but might as well be).

You see, the fly problem here at the beach is out of control. For months during late summer and early autumn, we’re plagued by kazillions of nasty buzzing infections on legs. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because our beachside community is flanked by beef farms and cow poo attracts flies, or maybe they go crazy for the faux-pohutukawa trees that decorate our front lawn, along with the local bee population.

Do ultrasonic pest repellers work?

Happily, the bees are dedicated pollen gatherers and seldom venture into the house, but flies will follow any hint of sweet goodness and flood into the living room/kitchen. I’ve got a live-and-let-live attitude to the insect world, but have been known to swat over 100 flies in a single morning.

We’ve tried just about everything that isn’t toxic to humans, including fly strips (yucky and only gets a few of the swarm) and spray (the modern-day iterations just don’t work in big spaces). So when I saw the Pestill 4-in-1 ElectroSonic Pest Repeller advertised on the normally reliable Dick Smith mailorder site for a very reasonable $39 (and free shipping!) I thought it was worth a punt.

The blurb makes it sound wonderful: “Keep pests at bay using a toxic-free combination of ultrasonic, electromagnetic and anion technology with this 4-in-1 pest repeller… Repel pests with ultrasonic speakers and electro-vibrowave repellent, kill insect-attracting odour and bacteria with anion technology [production of negative ions]… Say goodbye to pests, insects and creepy-crawlies… Using ultrasonic frequencies and electromagnetic pulses undetectable to children, adults and pets, this repeller is designed to aggravate insects without you even noticing.” Etc.

Well, what we didn’t notice was any detectable decrease in the number of flies.

For a few weeks we were on a wish-fulfilment crusade. “It seems to be working,” I’d say to the wife. “I’m sure there were at least 30 percent fewer flies today.” Unfortunately, even if it was true, that still meant hundreds of flying plagues.

Do ultrasonic pest repellers work?

It’s interesting how human psychology works when we’re trying to buy into something. Yes, we were trying to convince ourselves that it was doing its best to frighten the flies away and diminishing the numbers, but there was absolutely no proof that it was doing so. After a few weeks, we realised that we were simply deluding ourselves. There were as many flies as ever. They were even landing within a few centimetres of the Pestill gadget.

A simple Google search confirmed my worst fears. “The devices available from stores and online aren’t powerful enough to affect pests,” said one source. “Their range is too short and the sound waves they emit are too weak to effectively repel bugs or rodents, wrote another. “Ultrasonic electronic pest and insect repellent devices claim that their high-frequency soundwaves are intolerable to rodents and insects. However, simply plugging in one of these devices probably won’t end your pest woes.” Yet another: “In summary, ultrasonic pest repellers emit high-frequency sounds that manufacturers claim reduce household pest infestation, but laboratory tests have shown that the majority of such devices do not work as advertised, in violation of FTC guidelines.”

The more I searched, the more I was convinced that these so-called ‘pest repellers’ do nothing much at all, except use up your power when plugged into the socket.

To give it its due, the Pestill 4-in-1 ElectroSonic Pest Repeller does have a strong night light, but if I wanted one of those I could have purchased it separately for about a 16th of the price.

Do ultrasonic pest repellers work?

Yes, it’s possible that it deterred any errant mice from entering the premises, but we seldom get them, anyway. All my favourite friendly spiders remained happily in their webs.

It would appear, then, that there’s no proven science behind the claims, and that ultrasonic pest repellers, at best, fulfil the human need for some kind of placebo when there’s no real solution available.

Having said that, I’d love to hear from anyone from the scientific community (or budding technology experts) willing to weigh in with their opinions on these devices.

What I’d like to know is why these things are even allowed to be sold, and why an otherwise credible outfit like Dick Smith would even sell them. (Note: I don’t mean to single out Dick Smith, because similar devices are available from many other homeware and electronics stores).

Fit for purpose? Yeah-NAH! Ultrasonic pest repellers get the big thumbs down.

* Fit For Purpose is a regular Witchdoctor column inspecting both the good and the bad in handy doodads and gadgets.



Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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