Bug Zapper

It’s not too often that the name of a product is what sound it makes. But, in this case, that is exactly what it is. We’ve all had that experience being out on the patio and hearing that fateful ‘zap’. We know what it means to that poor little bugger, but good riddance. Let’s face it, the only reason we get these bug zappers is because they help us feel more comfortable outside. If we only get these zapper things for those pesky weekend, door to door salesmen. Oh well, I’ll leave that for someone else to invent. Let’s discuss here what the outdoor bug zapper is all about and why you may be better served with another type of insect or pest repellant device.

Home with dual bug zappers.  Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/34276137@N00/3386002630/
Home with dual bug zappers. Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/34276137@N00/3386002630/
Closer view of a bug zapper.  Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stoleaglance/2819276930/
Closer view of a bug zapper. Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stoleaglance/2819276930/
A non-nighttime shot of a bug zapper.  You can still see the blacklight.  Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/38982214@N08/3590890536/
A non-nighttime shot of a bug zapper. You can still see the blacklight. Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/38982214@N08/3590890536/

History and Function of the Bug Zapper

Depending upon who you ask or where you look, this little invention dates back to the 1930s.  Little has really changed about its overall purpose or function, but some improvements have been made with respect to its safety.  This device is really a simple idea.  Lure bugs to the light, then zap them with an electrical charge.  For this reason, the more proper term for the bug zapper is an electrical-discharge insect control system.  I think the name play is just a way to make it sound less harsh. 

The bugs don’t really care.  In fact, they are instantly killed, so they don’t have to suffer.  The whole point with these things is to eliminate the bugs that pester and bite you while you enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.  The only problem is, sometimes the bugs you are trying to kill are not effectively done in by the bug zapper.  You see, the zapper works by luring the bugs with a light source which could be fluorescent or black light.  Some insects are lured more by one or the other.  In any event, as they come towards the light closer and closer they complete a circuit within the unit itself that then emits the electrical charge.  You hear that infamous ‘zzzzzttt’ and the bug drops inside the unit.  A typical bug zapper of average size can kill thousands of insects in an evening.  The only problem is, it doesn’t discriminate what types of insects.

This issue has actually been extensively studied.  What was found was that of the thousands of insects that are killed, a very very small fraction are mosquitoes or biting gnats or flies.  Furthermore, researchers have even suggested that if large populations of these harmless bugs that the zappers attract are killed, that local ecosystems could even be affected.  This would happen in part because in the name of a more bug free evening, your zapper has created an imbalance in the system and natural order of things in the insect world – which is our world.  

Bug Zapper Controversy

Because the typical zapper has no selection process, any insect that flies into the light will be shocked. This is bad news for us, actually, because some of these insects apart from being harmless to us, actually help with pollination of plants and flowers as well as other insect control. The problem is that the main insects we are trying to eliminate are not attracted to these traditional bug zappers.

Since we are talking about annoying insects, we are probably talking about mosquitoes for the most part. Mosquitoes and outdoor patios in the summer just don’t mix. If you have a mosquito problem, then the bug zapper will do little to alleviate the problem. For them, you need something different. Mosquitoes are not attracted to the light, they are attracted to carbon dioxide and moisture, like from sweat and humidity. That is why there are these things called mosquito traps. These are basically propane powered units that emit a combination of carbon dioxide, water and with some units, a special mosquito pheromone. These have been demonstrated to trap and kill thousands and thousands of mosquitoes in an evening, where heavy populations swarm and are a real nuisance.

So, what are you to do? Well, for peace of mind, you should have both. The bug zapper does get some of the pesky insects, it’s just that in proportion to the mosquito traps, they do little. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no benefit to the traditional zapper. Plus, for some good old fashioned patio deck fun times, you can’t beat that zap sound and light. After all, those bug zappers are really more for us. We think we are doing more good for our mosquito and biting fly problem each time we hear that zzzzztttt.

YouTube Videos of A Bug Zapper

This brief video more or less is a demonstration of what the bug zappers look like when turned on at night and the sound you hear when an insect flies into the light.  You can tell that the bug zapper makes the more impressive sound, while the mosquito trap makes more effective seduction bait for the pesky mosquitoes.

YouTube Video About A Mosquito Trap

This is a promotional video for this particular brand of mosquito trap.  It does a good job of explaining the method and theory behind how they all work.  The difference would be that some models have the pheromone or scent that is released, while others use just carbon dioxide and water.

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Comments 2 comments

Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Wow, patio I am the first to comment. Thank you for being honest when you say that the bug zapper does little for mosquitos. This is why most people buy a bug zapper. Great hub. Well done and I am happy to be a fan. I have also rated up. Most forget to do this. it helps a lot with your ratings.

patioman profile image

patioman 6 years ago from USA, Arizona Author

Thank you Granny's House. Yah, it is tough to hear sometimes, but these bug zappers haven't really been shown to do much. In theory, they seem to do the trick, but actually have little merit for this goal of eliminating mosquitoes. Thanks for the tips and stopping by!

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