Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Mosquitoes: 12, Bug Zappers: 0

20150705Hordes 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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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