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These Bug Zappers Keep Insects Away

Whether you prefer to do your outdoor entertaining on sunny spring days or warm summer nights, there’s one thing that almost everyone can agree on: Getting targeted by an invasion of stinging, chomping insects really bites (no pun intended). Few things ruin a relaxing evening on the deck faster than constantly swatting pests who see your family and guests as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

But bugs aren’t just annoying; they can also be a health hazard. Mosquitos carry diseases such as West Nile virus. Many people also have allergic reactions to bites, ranging from irritating rashes to severe medical emergencies.

Bug zappers can be an effective defense to keep insects from taking over your space. Here, we’ve laid out some things to keep in mind when looking for your own, followed by our evaluations of the best.

Tips for Finding the Right Bug Zapper

Bug zappers give off an ultraviolet light that attracts small flying insects—and then kills them with a fatal shock when they get too close. Some people find the sight or sound of insects getting zapped distracting, annoying, or even distressing. So you may want to set up your bug zapper in a strategic location near enough to your gathering area to help protect your space, yet at a distance that keeps the sound and sights from bothering you. Remember, the point is to establish a peaceful, relaxing, and, most importantly, annoyance-free haven. (Be sure to read the product descriptions carefully, as some devices are only intended for use in certain areas or conditions.) You may also need an extension cord, even for patio or deck settings, as some products have short cords.

For maximum insect protection, fight pests on several fronts. In addition to a bug zapper, use insect repellant or an insect-repelling device and a citronella candle close to where people are. Ideally, you can also create an enclosed space protected by netting or other material.

How We Evaluated

To choose the best options and evaluate them, I relied on my experience using many different zappers as a contractor and homeowner as well as research into newer models and technologies. My husband and I owned a construction business in rural Pennsylvania for more than ten years, and our job sites were often near creeks or ponds that served as mosquito breeding grounds. We used zappers designed for larger insects and made from stronger materials able to withstand the elements, learning quickly which ones were up to the task, and which features mattered most. I also consulted Popular Mechanics’s past testing of the category.

When evaluating these zappers, we took into account the claimed coverage area each provides, its power source, and how easy it is to empty (a.k.a. the mess factor) and gave extra consideration for energy-efficient options, such as models that are solar-powered or use energy-saving LED lights.

Biggest Coverage

Black Flag 5,500-Volt Deluxe Bug Zapper

Coverage area: up to 1.5 acres | Power source: Electrical outlet | Ease of cleanup: Relatively easy to clean with minimal mess | Energy-efficient features: LED light and dusk-to-dawn sensor that can turn the unit on only during insect primetime

When it comes to insect control, Black Flag is one of the most recognizable names around. The manufacturer recommends situating this unit at least 20 feet away from where you will be gathering, but with a claimed coverage area of up to 1.5 acres, that doesn’t affect its performance. It’s relatively quiet, and the soft purple light adds some cool ambiance at night. In addition to the LED light, it also has a clip-on lure that contains Octenol, a chemical that attracts insects. You will need to replace the lure cartridges about once a month.

Quietest

Koolatron Flying Insect Killer Hanging Lantern

Coverage area: 323 square feet | Power source: Electrical outlet | Ease of cleanup: Easy; comes with a small brush to help clean the insect collection tray | Energy-efficient features: LED light

The manufacturer boasts that this unit is “noise-free,” and many reviewers back up that claim, noting that they couldn’t hear it at all. It’s lightweight yet weather-resistant and durable, so you can put it anywhere in your yard where insects are an issue. It comes with a hanging ring, but the base is flat so you can also sit it on any smooth surface. (Because it’s so lightweight, it’s best to avoid placing it where strong winds might knock it over, though).

Budget Pick

Pic 2-in-1 Portable Mosquito Zapper & Accent Light

Coverage area: Not specified; given its minimal size, best for a small/enclosed area | Power source: USB charger | Ease of cleanup: Easy; comes with cleaning brush | Energy-efficient features: LED light

This affordable option is even more impressive when you consider it does double duty as both a bug zapper and a decorative accent light. You can opt to use either or both functions, and the USB-chargeable battery lasts up to seven hours. The accent light gives off a cool purple glow. This zapper uses an Octenol lure in addition to the UV LED light, for dual insect-attracting power (lure cartridges last up to 30 days). This compact (2.5 x 4-inch), portable unit can be used anywhere indoors or outside—great for an RV, office, or at a campsite.

For Covered Patios and Porches

LinkPal Electric Bug Zapper

Coverage area: 400 square feet | Power source: Electrical outlet | Ease of cleanup: Easy-to-empty collection box | Energy efficient-features: UVA lamp draws only 6W of power

This zapper isn’t designed to be exposed to rain, so it’s probably a better option for an indoor space or a safely protected spot under an awning or porch roof. Many people who bought it were impressed by its powerful results, especially given the modest price. While not the quietest, it uses only the UVA light to attract insects, so it’s a good choice for people who want to avoid chemical lures.

Stylish Design

Dynatrap DT1050-AZSR

Coverage area: ½ acre | Power source: Electrical outlet | Ease of cleanup: Simple; just twist off the collection basket and empty | Energy-efficient features: UV light

Among the pricier of the models that I checked out, this zapper offers a stylish look and durable, high-quality construction. And because it’s not technically a zapper, it’s almost totally silent, so it’s fine to put near seating. Instead of electric shocks, it wipes out insects via a three-pronged approach: the warm UV light combines with a carbon dioxide lure created by the specially coated surface to attract bugs, and then the built-in fan ensures that any insects that venture near the device will get drawn in and trapped.

Ideal for Indoors

Black & Decker Bug Zapper

Coverage area: 6,000 square feet | Power source: Electrical outlet | Ease of cleanup: Simple; just empty the collection tray (cleaning brush included) | Energy-efficient features: UV light

This unit is designed for use indoors or in an enclosed/covered area outside. You get the durable high-quality construction you would expect from Black & Decker and reliable performance. When using it indoors, I would recommend not positioning it near a window at night, or you might discover a high volume of insects swarming around outside the glass or screen trying to figure out how to get to the light.

Handheld Option

Zap It Rechargeable Bug Zapper Racket

Coverage area: Limited to arm’s length | Power source: USB charger | Ease of cleanup: Moderate; this can create a bit of a mess | Energy-efficient features: LED light

If you would get some satisfaction out of personally destroying your insect foes, you might enjoy this option. But it should go without saying that you must be okay with letting insects invade your personal space before you eliminate them. Like a high-tech version of a fly swatter, this requires some effort but allows you to pursue and safely dispatch unwanted pests, such as moths or stinging insects inside the home.

Dual-Duty Zapper and Landscape Light

Apder Solar-Powered Bug Zapping Lamps

amazon.com

Coverage area: N/A | Power source: Solar charge, but can also use AA batteries | Ease of cleanup: Moderate; open the top and dump to empty | Energy-efficient features: Solar-powered LEDs

These lights may not pack the punch of some of the more powerful, high-wattage options, but they add a decorative touch to your yard while offering reasonable bug-fighting benefits. With no wiring, they’re easy to set up–just stake them into the ground and let them absorb energy from the sun (backup AA batteries provide power on cloudy days). A light sensor automatically turns them on at dusk. A switch lets you toggle between two options: the soft purple insect-killing light or a white light that just illuminates the space when insects aren’t active.

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