by Ken Greatorex
Peter Bromley’s experiences with his mum’s PestXit Duo (11th September) interested me strangely. This device does not rely on nasty chemicals, paranormal energy or the doubtful therapeutic effect of magnetic fields. You plug it in and turn it on, and it makes a continuous irritating noise beyond the human frequency threshold. That’s plausible. Why shouldn’t it work?
Imagine yourself momentarily as a mouse or a cockroach in this situation. Wouldn’t you migrate to (say) the quieter wall spaces of the house next door? It’s an extraordinarily humane method of pest control. You flick-pass your pests to people who have not had the foresight to invest in a PestXit! The website features a photo of a little mouse getting on a bike to reinforce this point.
Note: We previously implied that PestXit Duo was a mousetrap. It’s not: mea culpa – that’s the heading I gave to Peter’s article. The company do actually market a mousetrap which costs A$9.95 online (three for $28), looks like this and kills, rather than banishes mice. Most PestXit products are electronic in operation, and apart from PestXit Duo and the slightly cheaper PestXit Ultra there is a wide range of similar devices which includes MossiXit.
PestXit says its devices originate in Canada, but manufacturing and marketing are now based in China. The content of its website suggests that Australasia and the Pacific Islands are a major outlet. Sales are on-line or through chains such as Dick Smith or Tandy.
PestXit’s online advertising stresses the safety of the product, with claims of effectiveness relying on testimonials. Ease of use is also implied. You are left with the impression that you only have to plug it in and switch it on to be protected from both mice and insects in perpetuity. As we’ll see, that’s a little misleading.
The testimonial heading every page of PestXit’s website comes from a Fijian. His/her PestXit has eliminated a rat problem. Not only has their expensive onslaught on electrical wiring ceased, but the cockroaches have joined the exodus.
There are three more “testimonials”, all from Australians. The first is not a testimonial at all, and concerns safety rather than effectiveness. The writer says that he has been commissioned to provide an opinion, and lists impressive qualifications in Environmental Medicine. He continues: In my opinion, the MozziXit products pose no discernable risk to human health when used according to instructions. The second testimonial blames cockroaches for eating through electrical wiring. PestXit Duo has solved the problem. The third says that mice, spiders and cockroaches are conspicuously absent since she plugged in a PestXit Ultra. This is especially good news, as she has a crawling baby.
The problem with testimonials is that the company has its choice of customer feedback to publish. The greater the sales, the greater the opportunity to select from the extreme positive end of the customer response bell-curve.
I went looking for more independent assessments. I found one on a New Zealand site. The customer reports that ants are kept away until something sweet and sticky is spilled, in which case they come back: (Score: 7 out of 10).
I found ten customer reviews at productreview.com.au. They give PestXit a range of scores from zero to five out of five. Three users rate it highly. One used it to repel possums: which is interesting, and also problematic for PestXit’s environmental credentials, given that the only mammals supposedly affected by the product are rodents. Three customers are more equivocal: one says it works for cockroaches but costs too much. Another says that it deterred mice for one year, after which they returned. The third says that it seems to deter mice, but not other pests. Of the four negative reviews, one says that mice had chewed through PestXit’s plastic case, but goes on to concede that there are no Wildebeeste menacing the premises. The second returned the product for a refund with cockroaches nesting inside it. The third, after claiming no deterrent effect on either rodents or insects, points out that the device can only be set manually for either mice or insects at any one time. The fourth disgruntled reviewer asked PestXit for research data supporting the company’s claims, to be told that such data was confidential. (average score: 2.8 out of 5).
That leads to the question; is there any professional research regarding the product’s efficiency? The following appears on the company’s own website:
What testing have the PestXit products undergone?
PestXit products have been independently tested by Intertek Testing Services in Hong Kong and has received EMC certification. PestXit products have also undergone laboratory testing in Australia by an independent testing unit – Austest Laboratories – and the Queensland Department of Energy and Mines.
I first contacted Austest. A spokesman told me that PestXit may have been a client in the past, in which case results of testing would be confidential: however, such testing could only apply to product safety or verification of compliance to technical standards. He assured me Austest could not have tested to see if it controls pests, because its laboratories are not equipped to do so.
I then phoned the Queensland Department of Energy and Mines, but got a remarkably swift and useful response from the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation instead; the Queensland Government’s electronic labs which might have tested PestXit perhaps seven years ago are now in its domain. PestXit would have to have met routine safety and environmental standards in order to be legally sold in Queensland stores. Again, the question of whether it actually controls pests would not have arisen.
The involvement of Intertek is a little less clear-cut. Intertek is an international organisation which conducts a wide range of technical assessments. However, MEC certification suggests that once again, the focus is on safety, electronic performance, possibly environmental compliance; but not effectiveness as a pest controller.
In summary: PestXit Duo may deter some people’s pests for some period of time under certain conditions. It does not seem to have the universal effectiveness claimed by the manufacturer. At about A$90 per unit, it should.
The emphasis on safety seems to be well supported. However, if the company is in possession of independent research to show that PestXit Duo actually works, it has missed a golden opportunity to refer to that research in its advertising. Testimonials are not an adequate substitute for data.