Hordes of blood thirsty mosquitoes are preventing you from enjoying your garden? Well, that’s easy enough to fix. Just install a mosquito lamp, also called a bug zapper, to quickly control your enemies… or at least that’s what the packaging promises.
You see these lamps in every hardware store and it’s difficult for the avid gadget-loving gardener to resist them: a light that attracts mosquitoes? It just seems too good to be true! And it is too good to be true.
These electronic traps contain black light fluorescent tubes and bare electrical wires (the device is covered with a grid so humans or pets can’t touch the wires). The theory is that mosquitoes will be attracted to the light and will be electrocuted when they come too close.
Unfortunately studies show that these traps are essentially useless for controlling biting insects, catching instead mostly harmless and even beneficial insects. One study, for example, showed that only 0.13% of the insects were killed female mosquitoes (and only female mosquitoes bite!). In another, of 13,789 insects killed, only 31 were biting insects. Yet other studies show no difference in the local mosquito numbers following the installation of a bug zapper.
And when you think about it logically, these results are not surprising: other insects (moths, beetles, etc.) may be attracted to light, but not mosquitoes. They’re drawn to the carbon dioxide and water vapor emitted by our breath and the smell of our sweat. There is no reason for them to be attracted to a lighted trap.
So save your money and wear long sleeves, long pants and mosquito repellant when you garden. That combination still remains the best way to avoid mosquito bites!