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Do ultrasonic mouse repellents really work?

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Mice are some of New Yorkers' biggest nuisances, and if you're trying to sell an apartment, they can go from annoying to downright deal-breaking.

Years ago, I learned that a couple of apartments several floors down had a mouse problem. Having fled one moused-up rental a decade earlier (an expensive act of desperation, as the landlord eventually collected $10,000 for the eight months remaining on the two-year lease), I asked the sub-basement guys at the Upper West Side Gracious Home what they recommended in the way of mouse prevention.

Apparently, what I needed was an electronic mouse repellent, which emits ultrasonic waves that rodents would rather not be around. Skeptical but highly motivated, I bought one and plugged it into the outlet next to the stove. It's been there ever since, and I've never seen a mouse in my apartment.

According to pest control expert Gil Bloom, that probably has more to do with the fact that the super successfully purged them from the building than with my electronic mouse repellent. 

“The pest control industry experimented with these in the late 80s—more sophisticated units with adjustable frequencies—but with no great results,” says Bloom of Standard Pest Management, who also warns that rodents tend to come inside during the upcoming fall season because of temperature changes and reduction of available food.

“While ultrasonics have some limited backing by lab studies, which allow the claim to be made, the results are not replicated in the real world,” he says. “The ultrasonic waves are more akin to flashlight beams, and if there is a shadow created by a box, bag, cabinet, etc., it has no effect.  You can aim it at a direct spot and possibly repel mice from that spot but that’s about it.”

The first step in getting rid of mice, says Bloom, is to "reduce food sources that are accessible in your home." Make sure not to leave garbage out on the curb (or be sure to complain to your management company if the super is).  And "any hole the size of a hole or larger needs to be closed up," he says. Professionals use stainless steel mesh (Xcluder) or copper gauze (Stuf-fit), according to Bloom.

(If you're looking to steer clear of rodents altogether and want to know how bad a rodent problem any particular building or neighborhood has, the city has a map for that.)

Raymond Lou, a director at M&M Pest Control, concurs that the ultrasonic mouse repellents are generally not effective. But, he says, he has personally seen them work on a short-term basis until mice become accustomed to the sound waves.

One Manhattan co-op owner who spent three month battling a mouse invasion agrees with Lou: "They are B.S. Mice get used to them. You gotta kill the bastards."

[Updated August 2016. Originally posted on 11/17/10.]

 

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