Summer is almost over, but mosquitoes haven’t quite disappeared for the year. If you want to keep the pests at bay during late summer or early fall nights, don’t count on a bug zapper to help much.
The Washington Post reports that bug zappers are ineffective at protecting people from mosquitoes.
James Fordyce, an entomologist at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, tells the Post:
“When it comes to mosquitoes, bug zappers don’t work. I don’t know any insect ecologist that doesn’t know that.”
Fordyce is not alone in his opinion. Colorado State University Extension flatly states that bug zappers do not kill mosquitoes or prevent bites.
The school notes that one study found just 0.13% of the insects killed by one of these devices were biting flies. That includes female mosquitoes, which are the only type of mosquitoes that bite humans and animals.
The American Mosquito Control Association also criticizes bug zappers as largely ineffectual.
The association grants that zappers “do indeed kill some mosquitoes” but cites a pair of studies out of the University of Notre Dame that found mosquitoes represent less than 10% of the bugs zappers kill over an entire season. According to the association:
“Even more important was the finding in both studies that there was no significant difference in the number of mosquitoes found in yards with or without bug zappers.”
And while the zappers probably aren’t effective at vanquishing mosquitoes, they appear to be highly lethal to bugs that are beneficial to the ecosystem.
The American Mosquito Control Association notes that bug zappers kill many insects that form a major part of the diet of songbirds. According to the association, a dwindling population of moth and beetle prey species has been a factor in the decline of songbird populations in many suburbs.
It adds that “insect electrocution devices undoubtedly bear some responsibility for this phenomenon.”
So, if you want to get rid of mosquitoes — and perhaps offer a helping hand to songbirds at the same time — skip the zapper and try the following tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Dump standing water. Once a week, empty anything — including tires, buckets, birdbaths and more — that contains standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs near water.
- Tightly cover any water storage container. If a standard cover won’t work, use a wire mesh with holes small enough to prevent adult mosquitoes from entering.
- Use larvicide when necessary. If you have a larger body of water that cannot be dumped, treat it with a larvicide that will kill mosquito larvae. However, never do this for water that might be used for drinking.
- Use adulticide when necessary. Instead of killing larvae, adulticide kills adult mosquitoes. Try to use adulticide in areas where adult mosquitoes rest, such as under patio furniture and near garages.