Are Bug Zappers Effective?

There are many tools and sprays that are used to kill and repel mosquitoes. Some of these methods have proven to be effective, while others are less. Today we are going to look at bug zappers, how they work and how good they are reducing and limiting the mosquito population.

What are bug zappers?

Bug zappers are devices that are used to kill different bugs, including mosquitoes. Generally, bug zappers use an ultraviolet light source to attract bugs and then kill them with electroshock. Bug zappers are most effective to bugs and insects that get attracted to ultraviolet light. The name “zapper” has developed from a zapping sound device makes when electrocuting a bug.

How zappers work?

Bug zappers work by using electricity to kill mosquitoes or pest that flies through the electric grid inside the zapper. A bug zapper consists of few parts such as housing, ultraviolet light source, wire grid, and electric power supply. The housing of a zapper is made from plastic or grounded metal. The shape of a bug zapper is usually rounded or cubic and the construction of the zapper reminds a lantern. Most casings have a hanger on the top of the zapper so it can be hung on a post or other place above the ground. To attract insects and bugs an ultraviolet light source is used. Usually, a fluorescent bulb is installed in the middle of the zapper.

The bulb transmits an ultraviolet light that attracts many bugs and insects. Around the bulb, there is a wire grid that is electrified from an electric power supply that is powered by mains electricity.

There are usually two wire grids around the bulb and both are separated by a small gap and when an insect flies inside of the zapper and touches the grid, high voltage electroshock runs through its body and burns inside of the insect and it gets instantly killed. Bugs then are collected in a special collection tray under the zapper or simply are dropped on the ground under the zapper. Insect zappers are designed in a way that does not harm animals and humans if they touch the zapper. The housing protects the zappers electric grid from being accessible by animals and humans. However, when an insect detects ultraviolet light emitted by the zapper, they imminently fly to the light source, gets through the plastic casing, reaches the electric grid that covers the light and gets electrocuted by more than 2000V power. Bug zappers are effective for those bugs that can detect and are attracted to ultraviolet light.

How effective bug zappers are compared to other methods for mosquito control?

Few studies conducted about the efficiency of bug zappers have proved that bug zappers are ineffective against mosquitoes and will not provide a significant impact on the population of mosquitoes in the area it has been used.

The problem lies in the fact that mosquitoes do not use ultraviolet light to find their victims. There are other methods how mosquitoes find humans, form which the most common one is by detecting carbon dioxide we exhale when breathing. Of course, a bug zapper can catch an occasional mosquito and electrocute it, however, the majority of bugs a zapper kills are not mosquitoes but other “good”, non-harmless bugs such as beetles, midges and different aquatic insects. While a bug zapper can kill a high number of insects and bugs during the night, there will be a small percent of mosquitoes between these bugs.

Interesting fact

Studies have shown that only 1-5% of bugs killed by a bug zapper are going to be mosquitoes, and what surprises, even more, is that the largest percentage of mosquitoes executed by the zapper are actually males, who do not suck blood, not females, according to different studies about efficiency of bug zappers.

Although it has been approved that bug zappers are not effective against mosquito control, many people still use them to fight a mosquito problem, but why? Because generally they are effective for killing bugs and insects and you can easily see the result when leaving a zapper working for night and when looking in a bug tray in the morning, there are going to be large number of dead insects and bugs, including mosquitoes, although the percentage of mosquito females in the tray will compile maybe few percents. Also, people enjoy the zapping noise that a zapper makes when an insect gets electrocuted, so it gives a feeling that the zapper is actively working and killing bugs.

However, if you have a bug zapper near you, there is a significantly higher chance that mosquito is going to detect carbon dioxide or different odors from your body and will fly to you, and will not pay even the slightest attention to the ultraviolet light from the zapper.


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Is there a reference for this line?
‘Studies have shown that only 1-5% of bugs killed by a bug zapper are going to be mosquitoes, and what surprises even more is that the largest percent of mosquitoes executed by the zapper are actually males…’


    Yes, you can read more information about this here.


    Thank you,
    I meant a ‘scientific reference” (article, book, etc).
    Still, none of those articles in reference list of that link says that male mosquitoes are more often caught than females (I read them already).



When choosing the best mosquito trap, people need to consider the product’s effectiveness, as well as the possible health consequences from using it.


    I definitely agree with you! But as long as you use mosquito traps and zappers correctly and as advised, they won’t do any harm to your health or the health of those around you.


Many zappers now use octenol attractant specifically to bring in mosquitoes to the zapper. I have noticed that mosquitoes are the majority of the insects in the tray when using it.

I’d like to see a study that takes it into account.

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