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* That mosquito zapper hanging in your yard does not catch very many mosquitoes because it does not necessarily target them.
Female mosquitoes (the ones that bite) are attracted to mammals, not lights. When they are far distances away from potential prey, mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide (because that generally means that a breathing mammal is nearby). As they get closer to the potential prey, they begin to sense body heat (more specifically blood near a skin surface) and they are lured to the source. Bug zappers emit neither carbon dioxide nor body heat. More modern devices for killing mosquitoes lure them by mimicking the cues female mosquitoes look for when searching for a blood meal--these are wiser purchases.
Another problem with mosquito zappers that indiscriminately attract insects using light is that they... well, attract insects. Most of the insects that are attracted to the light will not actually fly into the trap but will sit on the plants, walls, people, etc. around the trap. So, in effect, you can actually increase, instead of decrease, the number of insects in your yard.
If you want to keep insects away, you can use light of the appropriate wavelength to attract them. Strategically placed outdoor lighting can concentrate unwanted insects elsewhere. Mercury vapor lamps 150 to 200 feet away from occupied areas can divert nuisance insects away from high-traffic areas.
* While many pests are attracted to light, mosquitoes are not.
If you have a mosquito zapper that zaps mostly non-pest insects, you may want to rethink using one at all. Remember that many of the insects you are zapping probably prey on the mosquitoes you are trying to kill in the first place.
Consider, too, that many other animals (such as birds and bats) eat insects as food--if you destroy too many of the beneficial insects, you could put pressure on part of your local animal population.
One of the dangers of using a mosquito zapper is the unpleasant effect created while zapping a bug. The bugs sort-of explode into thousands of tiny, messy fragments (including all of the viruses and bacteria they carried which become freed into the air). Some studies have suggested that breathing the detritus of zapped bugs is less than healthy.
*If possible, keep mosquito zappers away from heavily trafficked areas.
Some recent studies have confirmed what many observant homeowners have seen for themselves about mosquito zappers: most of the insects they kill are not pests. The University of Delaware conducted the best known study where only 31 out of 13,789 insects trapped (0.22%) were mosquitoes or biting gnats.
* Monitor your mosquito zapper to be sure that it is effectively controlling mosquito populations and not just killing anything around.
Mosquito zap-style products are gradually getting more sophisticated, but there is still the unpleasant sound of tiny flying beasties frying dramatically in an electric death. Older models need to be kept out of reach of children, which can remove the mosquito zapper from the proximity of the ground foliage where mosquitoes tend to rest--this essentially renders the device useless.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|