Summer is a time to enjoy the outdoors. This is the season of fireflies, honeybees, praying mantises, and lacewings. This is the season for barbecues, camping trips, and evening cocktail parties by the pool. Unfortunately, it is also the season of mosquitos and other blood-sucking bugs.
People have been slapping, scratching, smoking, spraying, and whacking away at mosquitos and other bugs for millions of years. In return, they have brought a deadly plethora of disease and epidemics to human populations across the planet.
Today, you’ll find all manner of bug-control tools online. These include innumerable “odorless” bug repellants, bracelets, citronella candles, and DEET sprays. But none is quite as simple as a bug zapper.
How Bug Zappers Work
Bug zappers work by discharging a UV light that attracts bugs to the center of the device, where they are trapped. The bugs are eventually electrocuted, usually between two metal grids.
Because of the irresistible enticement of their light, bug zappers are incredibly effective at killing mosquitos and other bugs. That’s why there’s been some uproar over how bug zappers can kill beneficial insects like bees and moths, too.
How to Keep Beneficial Insects Away from a Zapper
If you intend to use bug zappers for your outdoor gatherings this summer, we suggest you use them at night. Bees tend to hunker down in their hives come nightfall. Setting your zapper out at night reduces their chances of getting caught by the device.
Peppermint, basil, eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, and pennyroyal also repel bees. Consider growing these plants near your porch or in pots along your deck to keep bees away.
We placed a few pots of basil, peppermint, and pennyroyal around our test area. We are pleased to report that not a single bee ventured near the zappers we tested for this article.
To keep beneficial moths away, hang a bag of cedar chips near the zapper. Cedarwood has natural moth-repellent properties.
You can also combine dried lavender, bay leaves, cloves, rosemary, and thyme in a bag nearby. Moths hate the odor of these herbs. Just make sure you situate the bag near the zapper for best effect.
Our Take on 4 Top-Rated Bug Zappers on Amazon
Keep reading to learn about four top-rated outdoor bug zappers you’ll find on Amazon. We’ve tested all of them quite extensively over the past months. To help you make a choice, we’ll give you our take on each.
We’ve also looked to The Spruce, Bob Vila, Popular Mechanics and other websites for further expertise and insights.
1. Flowtron BK-40D
The Flowtron BK-40D’s high-intensity UV light bulb attracts pests as far as an acre away. During our testing, this device attracted mosquitos, biting flies, and other winged offenders by the dozens.
They buzzed their way across the backyard and into the electrified grid, where they were immediately zapped.
Impressed as we were by its performance, what we liked most about this bug-killer was the housing’s material. Where most manufacturers rely on plastic, the design engineers at Flowtron decided to go with polycarbonate instead.
Polycarbonate is generally a bit more expensive than ABS plastic, but it is also much more rugged. This makes the Flowtron’s weatherproof properties simply superb. It doesn’t crack nor does it rust or fade under heat, sunlight, snow, or rain. This is a bug zapper that’s meant to last.
2. Black & Decker Outdoor Bug Zapper
The Black & Decker Outdoor Bug Zapper lures pests from up to a half-acre of outdoor space. The waterproof housing keeps the zapper’s high-intensity UV light running even during a storm. The 24W non-toxic UV light will last 8,000 hours and works in conjunction with the 2,400-volt grid.
We set this zapper out on our screened test patio, where its UV light routinely lured mosquitoes and other pests. They’d fly into the zapper where the grid killed them instantly. This went for an entire night without pause or hiccup.
The following morning, cleanup was a simple matter of emptying the easy-to-remove bottom collection tray for dead bugs. The unit even comes with a hanging chain and a cleaning brush to remove debris and dead insects from the tray.
3. Black Flag Deluxe Bug Zapper
When it comes to insect control, Black Flag is one of the most recognizable names around. The company has been manufacturing insecticides since 1883, making it the oldest pest control brand in the United States.
The company recommends situating the Black Flag Deluxe Bug Zapper 20 feet away from where you’ll be gathering. That much clearance might seems excessive for a bug zapper. But with a coverage area of up to 1.5 acres, it won’t affect the device’s performance at all.
The zapper performed as expected during our tests, drawing everything from mosquitoes, to gnats, to wasps to our proving grounds.
The unit comes with 5,500 volts of bug zapping power. Suffice it to say it made quick work of all manner of winged pests.
In addition to the LED light, the zapper has a clip-on lure that contains Octenol, a chemical that attracts insects. You’ll need to replace the lure cartridges about once a month.
4. Also Good: TBI Pro Bug Zapper
If you’re looking for a smaller bug zapper that won’t cost you too much, consider the TBI Pro Bug Zapper. It isn’t as powerful or well-constructed as the bug-killers on this list, but it does have some attractive features.
The TBI is compact and lightweight. You can set on a table indoors or on the ground in your backyard. You can hang it over your patio, too, as it comes with a suspension hoop. The bug zapper also includes a catch tray and a few R-Octenol pads for attracting mosquitos in its vicinity.
The only drawback we could find about the zapper was a dubious coverage area. The manufacturer suggests the coverage as both one acre and – perhaps more likely – half-an-acre. And, yes, we’ll go ahead and say it, that was a buzz kill we weren’t expecting.