The mosquito zapper is among the most popular and widely used of mosquito control products. That’s certainly understandable, because bug zappers are durable and easy to use. And they also deliver some really satisfying snaps, sizzles and pops!
Plug a bug zapper in when the bugs are out in full force and it sure sounds like it’s going to town. It can absolutely give the impression that swarms of mosquitoes are being dispatched to that great blood bank in the sky.
But are mosquito zappers all sizzle and no steak?
How Mosquito Zappers Work
Zappers are relatively simple devices. Lure the mosquito to an electrified grid, and zap – no more mosquito. The simplicity of the units pays off in durability and minimal maintenance requirements.
And the siren song that lures the insects to their deaths is some form of light, most often ultraviolet.
Now, if you’ve ever waded through a cloud of bugs congregating around a porch light, and emerged from the cloud spitting and sneezing bugs, you know that light is a very effective insect attractant.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that out of all of those gazillions of bugs in that porch light cloud, very few – maybe none – were mosquitoes. That’s because according to entomologists, mosquitoes aren’t much attracted to light. Skeeters know what they want, and what they want is you. And they find you through the carbon dioxide, heat, and moisture that your body exudes.
So while your bug zapper might be putting a major dent in the local winged insect population, it’s probably not drawing down the mosquito population very much.
This was verified in a study performed at the University of Delaware in 1996.
The objective of the study was to use a bug zapper type lure to attract insects, but instead of incinerating the insects with an electrical current, they trapped them. Then they painstakingly examined the insects they caught – all 13,789 of them (didn’t somebody have a fun job!) – and found that only 31 of them were biting insects such as mosquitoes and biting gnats and flies.
All of the other insects were either harmless or beneficial. And in an ironic twist, some of the trapped insects were actually mosquito predators.
More Bad News About Bug Zappers
If you’ve got a bug zapper snapping and crackling away in your yard, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a warning for you: Don’t place the zapper close to a food preparation area.
And the reason for this recommendation is not as benign as the possibility that you might have to brush a gnarled gnat or a fried fly off your hamburger.
When a bug gets zapped, it disintegrates into lots of really small pieces. Creates sort of an airborne mist of insect parts. And any bacteria or viruses that those insects were carrying? They become part of that gory mist that can settle on your food or even be inhaled when you breathe.
Um, yeah…not exactly pleasant.
In Spite of All the Above…
So if you own a bug zapper, should you toss it in the trash, post haste? If you’re considering purchasing a bug zapper, should you zap that idea right out of your mind?
If you’re targeting mosquitoes, there’s no doubt that you can achieve much better results with mosquito control products such as the Mosquito Magnet.
But bug zappers do indeed zap lots of bugs. If mosquitoes aren’t the only type of bugs that bug you, then you might find a bug zapper to be a useful product.
And in spite of what the experts tell us, many people believe that the bug zappers are effective mosquito killers after all.
Some zappers, such as the Flowtron line, use a secondary lure called Octenol that specifically targets mosquitoes. So even though the UV light might not be attracting mosquitoes, the Octenol does.
The best-selling bug zapper on Amazon.com is the Flowtron BK-80D. If you read through some of the customer reviews for this product (clicking the link will take you to the product review page), you’ll find that lots of customer reviewers felt that this product reduced mosquitoes significantly. But you’ll also find reviewers who felt that the product had little impact upon their mosquito problem.
A zapper probably won’t have a major impact upon your local mosquito population. But it might at least help to thin out that cloud of insects congregating around your porch light.
And not having to fight your way through the porch light gauntlet would be a good thing!