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Best Bug Zappers of 2020
A bug zapper lets you spend time in your beautiful outdoor space without being pestered by unwanted bugs. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best bug zapper for you and your family.
What's the Best Gadget for Zapping Away Bugs?
The idea of relaxing on your deck with a nice glass of lemonade, beer, or wine sure sounds nice after a long day. As you watch the summer sun sink into the evening sky, you may find yourself positively reflecting on life and all it has to offer.
But it doesn't take long for that serene scene to be rudely interrupted by the drone of insects. They buzz around your face, disturbing your peace. They might even bite.
The best way to take back your relaxing evening is to eradicate the insects with a bug zapper. Today's bug zappers use the same basic design they've used for decades. However, modern bug zappers have a more pleasing look than older models. This means you can share space with a bug zapper and still relax.
At BestReviews, we do not accept free products from manufacturers. Our goal is to give you the information you need to make the product choices that fit your needs. To help you get the best performance from the best bug zappers, we studied this product category extensively. Look through the shopping guide that follows to understand key product features. If you're ready to buy a bug zapper, please see our top three product recommendations in the matrix above.
Bug Zapper Basics
A few different bug zapper designs are available on the market today, including indoor zappers. However, in this shopping guide, we will focus on bug zappers that can be used outdoors.
A bug zapper uses ultraviolet (UV) light, often from a fluorescent bulb, to draw insects toward it. This type of light exudes a blue or purple hue.
Surrounding the light is an electrified mesh grid. As insects strike the grid, they're electrocuted and killed.
Bug Zapper Parts
Although we wouldn't recommend trying to build a bug zapper on your own, these are relatively simple devices. Here's a breakdown of the parts that make the whole.
● Housing: Bug zappers are typically housed in plastic guards and coverings to ensure the light bulb doesn't contact the wire mesh. These materials lend a modern look to the bug zapper.
● Light Bulb: As you've probably noticed, certain insects are attracted to light. Bug zappers contain a fluorescent light bulb to lure the bugs in. Some units feature mercury or neon lights.
● Wire Mesh: One or two layers of metal wire mesh surround the light bulb. The gap between the wires in the mesh can be as small as a couple of millimeters, which is less than one-tenth of an inch. As an insect flies between the wires of the mesh, it completes the electric circuit, which in turn kills the bug.
Other Bug Zapper Components
● Transformer: The bug zapper has a transformer built into it. This device electrifies the wire mesh. It will transform the 110 to 120 volts running from the outlet through the electrical cord into a few thousand volts on the wire mesh. Models vary in the number of volts they deliver through the mesh, but the average wire mesh delivers about 2,500 volts. A bug zapper's voltage should be listed in the device's specifications. A greater voltage equals a more powerful bug zapper.
● Power Cord: Bug zappers plug into regular household outlets. Some have very short power cords, so you might need to use an extension cord.
○ Make sure you use an extension cord that's rated for outdoor use.
○ Also, make sure the extension cord is not situated in a place where you could trip over it.
Bug Zapper Design and Mounting
Most people don't evaluate their home decor based on the appearance of their bug zapper. Still, it's nice to have a bug zapper with a design you appreciate. Many of today's electronic bug zappers resemble an old gas lantern. But there are other designs too, including simple cylinders and rectangular boxes. Some bug zappers even feature decorative housing to enhance their aesthetic appeal.
Once you choose a bug zapper, you'll need to decide where to put it. Some bug zappers are made to be mounted on a wall or the side of your house or deck. Others can hang from an eave, fence post, or pole.
Some bug zappers can be mounted vertically or horizontally. This gives owners a little more choice and flexibility.
Bug Zapper Coverage Area
Different bug zappers have different coverage areas. Often, you'll find the coverage area listed in the device's specifications or product description. Coverage areas are listed in square feet.
Small-Range Bug Zappers
A small bug zapper may offer a coverage area of up to 4,000 square feet. Such units typically cost up to $25.
Mid-Range Bug Zappers
A medium-size bug zapper provides coverage in the range of 4,000 to 10,000 square feet. You can expect to spend between $25 and $40 for a mid-size bug zapper.
Large-Range Bug Zappers
A large-range bug zapper will claim a coverage area of 10,000 square feet or more. Some may claim to cover a half acre of land. You would likely spend in excess of $40 for such a large-range unit.
Notably, the coverage area of an individual bug zapper is usually based on the manufacturer's best guess. It's not a measurement that's regulated by any oversight industry or governmental body. At best, a manufacturer may show through testing that their product has successfully drawn insects from a certain distance.
A bug zapper's performance on your property may be different from what the manufacturer claims. Trees, buildings, water sources, and predators can all impact the distance over which a zapper effectively draws insects. We advise potential buyers to view any bug zapper's purported coverage area with a skeptical eye.
Drawbacks to Bug Zappers
If you've performed any bug zapper research of your own, you may already be aware of the downsides of these units, which include noise and a fairly bright light.
● Noise: For some people, the crackle of a dead insect is a satisfying sound. For others, the noise grates on their nerves. In the event of a bug swarm massacre, a zapper could feel like a blessing or a curse depending on how much noise it makes and how tolerant you are of that noise.
● Light: The bright purple/blue UV light of a bug zapper annoys some people. If the goal of having a bug zapper is to grant you a bit of nighttime peace as you relax on your deck, the bright light could potentially interrupt your relaxation time.
Other Bug Zapper Drawbacks
● Mess: Older bug zappers allowed dead insect carcasses to drop to the ground, creating a mess. Newer models have a collection tray for the carcasses. You'll need to empty this tray from time to time. You may also need to clean the bug zapper's metal mesh occasionally, as bug parts could end up stuck in it. Be sure to unplug the unit before you clean the mesh.
● Killing the wrong bugs: Perhaps the most unfortunate drawback to bug zappers is that they don't necessarily attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are drawn to sweat from humans and the CO2 that humans exhale. But unlike many other bugs, they aren't consistently drawn toward UV light. In fact, a zapper may end up killing more bugs that are considered helpful to humans than those that are harmful. Because of this, some manufacturers attempt to entice mosquitoes by enhancing the bug zapper with certain chemicals.
● Upsetting the ecosystem: Some researchers believe that killing a lot of bugs could cause problems with the local ecosystem. A medium-size bug zapper could kill a few thousand insects in one night. Do this for an entire summer and you could alter the composition of the ecosystem on your property. For example, you could end up killing insects that feed your local birds and frogs. And if you're killing insects that aid pollination, you could create problems in your garden.
Handheld Bug Zappers
Another type of outdoor bug zapper you may wish to consider is the handheld bug zapper. These devices require a bit of manual labor, but they're actually kind of fun to use.
● Design: Most handheld bug zappers look like tennis rackets. The "strings" in a handheld bug zapper form a metal mesh that carries the electric current.
● No UV light: Handheld bug zappers don't draw bugs with UV light. Rather, the bugs die when they're swatted by the manually controlled zapper. You swing a handheld bug zapper while pressing and holding a button to activate the power. Any insect that contacts the now-electrified metal mesh will be killed.
● Power: Handheld bug zappers run on battery power, usually AA or AAA alkaline batteries. The average handheld bug zapper carries about 1,000 volts.
Other Benefits of Handheld Bug Zappers
● Mosquitoes and gnats: A handheld bug zapper can be more effective against insects like mosquitoes, which aren't drawn to UV light. It can also kill tiny gnats that are tough to see.
● Cost: You can expect to spend between $15 and $35 for a handheld bug zapper.
Bug Zapper FAQs
Q. Are there ways to kill insects in a similar manner indoors?
A. Yes. Indoor bug zappers are often smaller than outdoor bug zappers, and they look a bit different too. But like outdoor bug zappers, they use UV light to attract insects. Some indoor units will hang from a chain or on the wall. Others sit on the floor, collecting insects in a tray at the bottom.
Q. Why do bug zappers make so much noise as they kill insects?
A. The electrified mesh has spaces between its thin metal wires. As insects fly into the spaces, they complete an electrical circuit between the wires. As the voltage from the electricity crosses this space, it makes a zapping or crackling noise.
Q. Where should I place my bug zapper?
A. You'll want to place your bug zapper in an area near where people congregate—but not too close. As a zapper kills bugs, it vaporizes them. During this process, tiny bug pieces can fly several feet from the bug zapper. You don't want to be eating a nice meal only to have a leg or antenna fly onto your plate.
Bug Zapper Safety
Q. Are bug zappers dangerous to humans or pets?
A. The voltage that an electronic insect killer uses isn't exactly dangerous to humans. It doesn't take much voltage to zap a bug, after all. So if an adult human touches the electrified metal mesh of a bug zapper, it'll sting, but it's not likely to cause serious harm. Because children are smaller and tend to have more sensitive skin than adults, they will feel a much stronger sting and more pain if they get zapped by a bug zapper. Pets may feel a very painful sting too. Always station your bug zappers out of the reach of children and pets.