Backyard bug-zappers

Insect electrocuters provide some impressive crackles, flashes, and sizzles on summer nights but apparently little pest control around the home landscape. Homeowners expect to rid the area of mosquitos, and perhaps a variety of other pests, by using these devices. Research has generally shown little positive effect. A study from Delaware investigated the “catch” from electrocuters placed around some homes near potential mosquito breeding sites during June and July. Of the 13,000+ insects eliminated by the electric grids, only 0.2% (31 specimens) were biting flies. On the other hand, more than 1,800 beneficials- including predators and parasites- were dispatched (about 13% of the catch). Not much return on the investment -Especially when considering that more than 45% were aquatic insects that were at least, harmless and at best, important fish food.

Several factors contribute to this performance. For example, UV lamps that give off a lot of visible light are less attractive to mosquitoes and other night-biting flies than those that give off only UV light. That is, the more visible the light to us, the poorer it is in luring biting flies. Also, many species of mosquitoes are not attracted by black lights at all. For species that do respond to UV, only a portion will actually make it to the charged grids.

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