Friday, 20 May 2011

Unregulated Ads

Watching Stratos today, I see an ad for a plug-in device to control rats, mice, cockroaches, even spiders. But but: these things do not work. See:

Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of Device Tests and Effectiveness
Mary Bomford and Peter H. O'Brien
Wildlife Society Bulletin
Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 411-422 

... this is a meta-study, covering a wide variety of other studies in the general field of sonic pest control. I thought than maybe it would work for a while, then the pests just get used to the extra noise. But no: seems they don't work at all. But don't take Mary and Pete's word for it - google "ultrasonic pest control" in google-scholar and see. Most are tests for individual products, and as such are not all that useful (they only show those exact products don't work, doesn't mean the others are the same.) But look anyway. Some animals, like rats, have a bit of a response to ultrasound, but cockroaches and other bugs just don't care.

I thought of making a complaint to the advertising standards people ... but that would probably not help since Stratos was showing an overseas feed and, I'm guessing, an NZ authority is not able to affect an overseas ad.

Possibly we need more of these, the New Zealanders will learn not to trust the ads we do allow.

This leaves the problem of genuine anecdotes - "I plugged it in and away they want" stories. Trawl through the regular internet to find those (not one came from actual research). These are either too vague to tell, told by people employed by the company selling the device, or, refer to pests who are likely to go away after a while, or become inconspicuous for periods, anyway. Besides, if you discover you are infested with some pest, you don't just use one intervention - you'd also make sure you clean up after yourself better, lay poison etc. This sort of ambiguity is why anecdotes do not make good evidence.

OTOH: get a bunch of cockroaches in a tank, play the noise at them, watch what they do. Nothing different? Doesn't work. Simple.

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