Bug Zapper: Does It Work and Should You Get One?

Written By Kenneth Wilson  |  0 Comments

In the Sunshine State, we get to enjoy our yards, pools, and patios thanks to the wonderful year-round temperate weather. Unfortunately, this perk comes with a price: bugs, particularly mosquitoes. Especially during spring and summer, when our warm climate is combined with rain showers, this becomes the perfect environment for mosquitoes to thrive in.

When people want to get rid of these insects, they usually use chemicals such as sprays and pesticides. But some prefer not to work with toxic substances, and this is where the bug zapper comes in.

Continue reading to find out more about the bug zapper and whether it really works or not. This way, you’ll know if it’s something you need for your home or a device that you'll want to pass on.

What is a Bug Zapper?

Have you ever been to a home or a yard where you keep hearing a zapping noise? You look around and then see a device with a light. After a minute or two — zap! — and another tiny insect dies.

That’s probably a bug zapper! Also called an electrical-discharge or electronic insect-control system, this device emits a light that attracts insects, and when these buggers approach, it is zapped or killed with electricity.

This invention has been around since 1934, and while the modern bug zapper may look different, the basic parts and functions remain the same. Both have an exterior housing to hold the parts and a grid to prevent humans and animals from getting electrified. They also come with a bulb for the light, wire mesh or screens, and a transformer that electrifies the wire mesh.

To be more specific, the exterior, housing, or cage is usually made out of protective plastic or electrically-grounded metal. It’s commonly shaped like a lantern, rectangular cube, or a cylinder. The light bulb is typically fluorescent, such as neon, mercury, or ultraviolet light (black light).

With today’s bug zappers, there are now more features and functions. Not only were the safety and lures improved, but it now comes in more sizes, shapes, and forms. It can be standalone or handheld, and sometimes, it even doubles as a lantern.

It sounds like an amazing invention, unfortunately, it’s effectiveness is questionable. Questions like: “what bugs does it kill”, “can it kill mosquitoes”, “does it harm beneficial insects”, or basically, “does it work?”.

Does a Bug Zapper really work?

You’ve heard the zap, right? Then, they do work, but this doesn’t ensure it’s effectiveness. Bug zappers work because they emit an ultraviolet light, which reveals flower patterns that attract insects.

In a single evening, this device can attract and kill more than 10,000 bugs. It’s a huge number composed of different types of bugs, and since bug zappers cannot discriminate between the types, it tends to kill those that are most attracted to its light. So yes, they kill insects, but do they work on annoying insects such as mosquitoes?

Can it be used on mosquitoes?

Unfortunately, not all species of mosquitoes are attracted to ultraviolet light. These pests are most attracted to humans, specifically the carbon dioxide we release from our breath and the water vapor from our sweat. Sometimes they even find us due to our body odor or the perfume we’re wearing.

They are more attracted to us, but there are still occasional mosquitoes that get lured in bug zappers. They get curious about the light, then get too close and die. It’s a rare occurrence, and it also doesn’t guarantee that the victim is a female mosquito, which is the biting one. Most of the time, the mosquitoes that bug zappers kill are midges, which are non-biting mosquitoes.

But today, improvements have been made on the bug zapper to make it more effective against mosquitoes. Some devices now emit carbon dioxide, Octenol (a pesticide-free and non-toxic pheromone that attracts mosquitoes), or a combination of carbon dioxide, Octenol, and moisture.

The latter is commonly used in a different type of device; the mixture produced is used to lure mosquitoes into a net, leaving them to dehydrate and die. Since it’s relatively new, we can either try these new features out or wait for more studies to see if it really gets rid of mosquitoes.

What about other insects?

There are four types of bugs that can be lured into bug zappers: biting, flying, stinging, and crawling insects.

One of the most annoying types of bugs is the biting ones. Aside from mosquitoes, you’ll also find biting gnats and flies under this category. Similar to those blood-sucking pests, biting gnats are also not attracted to the ultraviolet light, and only a few get too close.

Most of the time, biting bugs get lured into the yard, but never into the bug zapper because they will be distracted by humans. Then, they will most likely choose food over pretty flowers.

For the flying insects, bug zappers tend to attract harmless types such as moths, fireflies, beetles, and others that may also bite. Some think that it’s better to exterminate all types of bugs, but that shouldn’t be the case. Beetles are important because they eat aphids or bugs that attack your plants while moths pollinate night-blooming flowers.

The same goes for stinging bugs. We know a bee sting really hurts, but that doesn’t mean they should be killed. Bees don’t usually target humans similar to how mosquitoes do. We need bees to pollinate vegetables and flowers, while wasps kill pests and control caterpillars and psyllids which feast on plants.

Unfortunately, these stinging bugs tend to approach bug zappers, especially when the sun goes down.

There are also crawling bugs that are drawn into bug zappers. Non-flying beetles and ants are also lured in by the light. But since it’s harder for these to get inside the zapper, it doesn’t really reduce their population.

So bug zappers, especially traditional ones, can kill thousands of harmless bugs, sometimes even more than the harmful and annoying ones. Aside from not being able to get rid of the pesky bugs, it can sometimes draw more mosquitoes into your yard, which will then lead to more bites.

Is it worth getting a bug zapper?

As mentioned above, bug zappers cannot discriminate its victims, whether it’s a harmful or beneficial insect, anything lured into it will be killed. Despite the questions about its effectiveness against mosquitoes, it’s one of the best selling devices on the pest control market.

Why is that? I think it’s because some people prefer this device because it uses little to no liquid or gas chemicals. It can also be left to work on its own unless you got one of those handheld ones.

You should also get handheld bug zappers if you’re worried about killing beneficial insects, this way, you’ll have more control. If you’re still not sure, here are the pros and cons of using a bug zapper.


  • Kills multiple insects instantly
  • Reduces insect population
  • Can work standalone or handheld
  • Doesn’t use or uses few chemicals
  • No harmful effects on people or animals health


  • Effectiveness is not proven
  • May harm the most beneficial insects
  • Does not kill the bugs you want dead
  • May lure more insects into your yard
  • The killing process results in a fine mist that contains dead insect bits

Can a Bug Zapper be used indoors?

Now that you have an idea about bug zappers, let’s find out more about its uses. We already know that it is used to kill insects in your yard, but can it be used indoors? Yes, you can use it indoors, and it is also commonly used inside homes. Since most people prefer not to use bug sprays with harmful chemicals in an enclosed space, they usually resort to bug zappers.

There are also bug zappers that are designed for indoor use. It usually has a 40-watt bulb and low-voltage wiring. This comes with a non-electrified grill to prevent pets from getting zapped.

If you plan on purchasing one, I will share with you some recommended bug zappers on the market. But before you check them out, here’s an important note to consider. Make sure to not place the bug zapper near you or where you gather with your family and friends. Since it attracts insects, some bugs may stray away and head towards your group if the bug zapper is nearby.

It should also be placed away from the table with food or other preparation areas. The bug zapper electrocutes these insects, which will then turn into a mist. This mist will contain parts of the dead insects, and it may travel to more than 7 feet from the bug zapper. You don’t want insect bits in your food, right?

Recommended Bug Zappers

In today’s market, there are now different designs, sizes, features, and additional functions of bug zappers to choose from. There are ones shaped like a lantern, a small heater, or a little night light. It can be powered by batteries or you have to plug it into a socket. You can also find bug zappers with removable trays for the insects that have fallen into the trap.

For those who prefer to have more control, there are handheld bug zappers. You’ve probably seen these ones — it’s like a small tennis racket, but made of plastic and has electric (strings) wirings. It’s portable and you can use it indoors, outdoors, or during a camping trip.

Flowtron BK-40D Electronic Insect Killer

1-acre coverage
40-watt bulb
9-inch cord length
Powered by a high voltage transformer
Weatherproof polycarbonate construction
Comes with a free USDA-tested Octenol attractant 30-day cartridge
Durable, will not crack, rust, or fade
Killing grid is designed not to clog
Reaches a radius of 1-acre
Easy to replace the bulb - no tools needed
May add Octenol attractant for improved effectiveness
Two-year limited warranty
For outdoor use only
Check product immediately for any defect

Aspectek Upgraded 20W Electronic Bug Zapper

Kills mosquitoes, flies, wasps, moths, beetles, and other pests
Double UV LED lamp bulbs
For indoor use, both residential and commercial
Has an electric shock barrier
Comes with a mesh screen for safety
Can be suspended using a chain and hooks or placed on a solid surface
Has a removable washable plastic tray for dead insects
Self-cleaning electric grid
Replaceable UV bulbs
For indoor use only
May need to constantly change the bulbs
The voltage may not kill all bugs that come in contact with the grid

Elucto Electric Bug Zapper Fly Swatter

AA batteries are included
Can be used indoors and outdoors
Easy to use, manual activation
1-year full warranty
Need to replace the batteries
Have to kill insects manually
May need to swat multiples times to kill an insect

ENKEEO 2-in-1 Camping Lantern Bug Zapper Tent Light

Portable and battery-powered
360nm to 400nm ultraviolet light
16’ x 16’ mosquito-free zone, IPX6 Waterproof
Three different lighting modes or brightness levels
2000mAh rechargeable battery
20 hours run time when using the lantern-only feature
15 hours run time with the zapper-only feature
Comes with a USB cable
Small, portable, and super lightweight
Combination of mosquito zapper and camping lantern
Can hang with a retractable hook
Removable lampshade
Comes with a plastic cage that prevents getting in contact with the inner wire
Easy to use and clean, place under running tap water to get rid of insect remains
Need to recharge, and may take a long time to charge
The battery may quickly run out when using both camping lantern and bug zapper feature

GLOUE Bug Zapper Electronic Mosquito Zapper Electronic Insect Killer

Made of eco-friendly material
Has a hidden tray
Small, and simple to clean
Easy to use, just plug it into an AC outlet
Operates quietly
For indoor use only
Metal prong may get stuck in the outlet

About the Author

I can build it, and I can help you get the patio enclosure you want! I got my start in the Florida patio industry back in the 70s as a young general laborer looking for something to make a few bucks. At the time I never thought it would end up as my career. Over the years I grew beyond the laborer position, becoming a foreman, superintendent, and then into executive management for some of the largest patio contractors, and material vendors. Now into retirement and slightly bored, I offer consulting services to new and existing contractors, and publish this website to help the people who love their patio's and screen enclosures the most - YOU!

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