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The summer season is less than a month away, which means that many people are already indulging in outdoor activities like cookouts, overdue yard work, hiking, and camping. Unfortunately, outdoor fun comes with a variety of annoying insects like flies, gnats, moths, and disease-carrying mosquitoes. In an effort to keep bugs away from homes, Americans purchase nearly two million “bug zappers” each year. Bug zappers use UV lights to attract insects to an electrified panel that zaps the pests to death. All bugs that are lured to their electrocution in the device collect within a compartment that can be emptied periodically.

The phenomenal commercial success of bug zappers could be attributed to a general lack of criticism regarding their effectiveness. At least two reputable studies on the effectiveness of bug zappers have been published, both of which were conducted by researchers with the University of Notre Dame. These two studies found that mosquitoes only accounted for 4.1 and 6.4 percent of the total amount of insect species collected from the bug zappers over an entire season. These two studies also found that the yards with bug zappers had a roughly equal number of mosquitoes as yards without bug zappers, indicating that this product does little to control mosquito populations. Perhaps worst of all, the vast majority of dead insect specimens collected from bug zappers are ecologically beneficial species that are currently in rapid decline around the world.

Many birds rely on the non-pest insects that are killed by bug zappers as their primary food sources. The steadily decreasing population-size of certain non-pest moth and beetle species in suburban areas is believed to have caused the rapid reduction of songbirds that were once prevalent in affluent neighborhoods, and it is likely that bug zappers are partly to blame for this loss. In fact, experts estimate that somewhere between 71 and 350 billion beneficial insects are killed each year due to electrocution devices marketed for pest control. It cannot be denied that mosquitoes are far more attracted to humans than they are to the black lights in bug zappers, as another study found that female adult mosquitoes (the only ones that bite and spread disease) accounted for only .13 percent of the insects caught in bug zappers while humans are present in backyards.

Have you ever purchased a bug zapper? If you have, do you find it to be effective?