Mosquito alarm

The Mosquito

The Mosquito or Mosquito alarm (marketed as the Beethoven in France and the Swiss-Mosquito in Switzerland), is an electronic device which emits an ultrasonic sound, similar to the buzz of a mosquito (approximately 17.4 kHz at 85dB). The device is typically heard by people less than 25 years of age because the ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates in humans with age (a phenomenon known as presbycusis).

The device is marketed as a safety and security tool for preventing anti-social behaviour such as gang loitering which has been publicly associated with graffiti, vandalism, drug usage, drug distribution, and violence. The Mosquito is very popular in the UK, with some 3500 in use, mostly by shopkeepers and police authorities. The device is also being sold in Australia, Canada and the USA. Even though it is not currently specifically banned for private citizens to use, the distributors and resellers of the product do not typically sell the device for home usage. Mosquito distributors also employ standards to ensure that the usage of the device isn't abused, and Welsh inventor Howard Stapleton, creator of the Mosquito, has asked European governments to legislate guidelines governing its use.


The Mosquito was invented by Howard Stapleton in 2005, and was originally tested at one location in Barry, South Wales, where it was successful in reducing the number of teenagers loitering near a grocery store.

The Mosquito was released into the mainstream market in 2006.

A device installed in a Spar shop in Caerleon Road in Newport,South Wales was banned after three months by the Newport Community Safety Partnership, a partnership set up to meet the requirements of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, with members including Newport City Council, Gwent Police, Newport Local Health Board, South Wales Fire Service, representatives of Customs and Excise, and the Welsh Assembly Government. Despite the ban, another Spar shop in Newport installed the device. A Newport Community Safety Partnership spokesman said: "Any view expressed by the Partnership does not stop any business or private company from purchasing these devices. They must ensure these systems comply with the law." .

In 2008, in response to a major national campaign launched by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Liberty and the National Youth Agency, the government issued a statement insisting that "'Mosquito alarms' are not banned and the government has no plans to ban them".


The Mosquito won the Ig Nobel Award for Peace in 2006. The Ig Nobels celebrate the quirkier side of serious scientific endeavour, honouring "achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think".

Health effects

The German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stated in a report on The Mosquito, entitled "Use of ultrasonic noise channels not entirely safe":
The results of the examination are now available. The auditors were not able to certify this device as completely safe.

The risk to the target group of teenagers and young adults is relatively low. They can leave the area when they hear the sound. On the other hand small children and infants are especially at risk, due to lengthy exposure to the sound, because the adults themselves do not perceive the noise. Moreover, the ultrasound affects not only hearing. Disruption of the equilibrium senses, as well as other extra-aural effects are well known. With the sound levels that can be reached by the device, the onset of dizziness, headache and impairment is to be expected. This is not the limit of the total risks to safety and health.

Support of the Mosquito

The Mosquito has received support and endorsements from municipalities, school districts, property management companies, convenience stores and other organizations. Rochdale Safer Communities Partnership said the borough was committed to the continued use of the Mosquito:

"We feel totally justified in deploying Mosquito devices in the borough of Rochdale to give the community respite in cases of acute anti-social behaviour and youth nuisance," she said. "We use the devices when there are large groups of young people making life a problem for residents and businesses, as we are very keen not to let problems of anti-social behaviour escalate."

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) also supports the usage of the device, and so does British Retail Consortium (BRC), stating that "Not all young people are involved in violence, but given that some retail staff are facing a level of insolence [from teenagers] they have to have the option of doing what they can to protect themselves. They are entitled to discourage threatening groups from hanging around or in their shops.

At the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows school district in British Columbia, Canada, the device has been credited with lowering exterior vandalism at one school by about 40%.


Opposition categorizes it as an indiscriminate weapon which infringes several rights, such as the "dignity of a people" category, namely the young.

A UK campaign called "Buzz off" is calling for The Mosquito to be banned. Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, has claimed that the sound is "untested [and] unregulated" and that it can be a "sonic weapon directed against children and young people."

"These devices are indiscriminate and target all children and young people, including babies, regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving," claims Albert Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Commissioner for England. "The use of measures such as these are simply demonizing children and young people, creating a dangerous and widening divide between the young and the old."

Both Shami Chakrabarti and Albert Aynsley-Green have been publicly criticised for their opposition to the Mosquito.

Teen Buzz ringtone

Some adolescents, however, have found the once annoying sound can be used as a tool, and turned it into a ringtone to prevent disciplinary actions that would normally be imposed if a mobile phone user was caught using their phones during school hours, by creating a mobile phone ringtone that is inaudible to most adults. This ringtone became informally known among schoolchildren as "Teen Buzz", and has since been sold commercially.

However, if in such settings where this kind of ringtone (e.g. around 17kHz) is utilized, it can be made more audible if another tone of a different frequency, preferably inaudible to most (e.g. 22kHz), were broadcast simultaneously. The physical reason for this phenomenon is that the interference of two inaudible frequencies will produce acoustic beats in an audible frequency (e.g. 22kHz-17kHz = 5kHz).

Legal status


Liberty has stated that this device may violate sections 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Belgium, a resolution was passed by the House in June 2008 asking the government to take all necessary measures to prohibit the marketing and use of devices like the Mosquito on Belgian territory.

Elsewhere, campaigners and authorities in many countries have stated they believe the device to breach human rights laws, and even constitute assault.


The legality of the device has been tested in the French courts, where the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Saint-Brieuc prohibited the use of The Mosquito within its municipality, and ordered a private individual to pay 2,000 euros compensation after operating the device outside their house.

Republic of Ireland

Under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, anyone who "directly or indirectly applies force to or causes an impact on the body of another... without the consent of the other" (force including "application of[any] form of energy"), is guilty of committing assault. This issue has been raised in relation to the Mosquito device by Ireland's Ombudsman for Children.

United Kingdom

The manufacturers claim the tones are broadcast at 75 decibels, meaning that the product falls within the government's auditory-safety limits, although the German news source Heise reported the device emits 85 decibels. The government of the United Kingdom issued a statement in 2008 stating that "'Mosquito alarms' are not banned and the government has no plans to ban them"..

The county of Kent has chosen not to allow the usage of the Mosquito on council-owned buildings.

Liberty has stated that this device may violate the United Kingdom's Human Rights Act 1998.


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