Kinds of Bug Zappers

By: Peter
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Kinds of Bug Zappers

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Maybe you’ve heard about bug zappers through friends, co-workers, television, magazine ads, or the Internet. If you are familiar with the terms and want to know more before purchasing one, this article will explain how they work along with the different kinds.

Bug Zappers

Bug zappers have been around a long time, with the first zapper patented in 1932. Surprisingly it resembles an electronic insect killer you may see today, although a lot more basic—an electrified grid surrounding an incandescent light bulb.

Bug zappers accomplish the feat of eliminating pesky insects by zapping them. They are built with an electrical shock that is mild for humans yet fatal enough for insects. Once bugs contact the electrified grid, they get shocked and killed instantly. The dead insect may fall to the ground or be collected in a tray under the zapper.

They’re typically fabricated of the following parts:

  • An outer casing or housing that contains the different parts and holds everything together. The casing can be in different shapes and sizes, often resembling a lamp, rectangular units, or even a handheld racket. The casing can be made out of plastic or aluminum.
  • A protection grid that protects you, children, or larger animals from coming into contact with the electric grid
  • A UV light bulb to attract insects. This can be a standard UV bulb that glows blue or, more commonly, a black UV bulb that gives violet light. Studies show that UV wavelengths between 350-370 nanometers have the best success rate when attracting insects.
  • An electrified grid. As insects try to pass the grid to get to the UV light they touch the grid are electrocuted.
  • A transformer that increases the voltage from 120 volts to around 2000 volts or more.

Now you know the different parts of bug zappers, let’s see how they work.

The light bulb emits both a light visible to us and an ultraviolet light visible and attractive to a flying bug. The electrified grid surrounding the lamp is made up of wires spaced by about an eighth of an inch or the size of a tiny insect. The insects are lured towards the light and try to pass the electrified grid. The insect touches two wires of the grid and completes the circuit. The voltage passes through the insect, heats it to high temperatures, which causes it to disintegrate.

Type of Bug Zapper

Bug zappers can be classed in a few ways, notably outdoor or indoor, power source- plugin, battery, solar-powered, portable. In this post, we will organize them by the power source and then further by indoor or outdoor.


The plugin kind is perhaps the most common among bug zappers. It generally requires the use of an extension to work at longer distances. If you use an extension cord outside, make sure it’s suitable for outdoor use.

These zappers work efficiently, and if you use one overnight, expect to see a clump of dead bugs near the device come morning.

There are plugin devices that can be employed outside or inside the house. Plugin insect killers will be more powerful than battery or solar-powered zappers, which means they will be able to kill larger insects.

Indoor Plugin Bug Zapper

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Keep in mind to position the bug zapper in a safe place to protect children and pets if you want to use it inside the house. Also, position it so that insects will not be distracted by other light sources. Your indoor bug zapper should not be placed near an open door or window because this will attract flying insects into your house.

Place the zapper as far away as possible from places you sit for long periods or rooms you want to protect. The bug zapper will attract insects toward it, so keeping it as far away from you as possible will help keep you bug-free.

a box-shaped indoor bug zapper

These devices can be a bit noisy depending on the regularity and size of the insects. Bigger insects usually produce louder sounds once they come into contact with the unit, and there are chances of it smelling as they get burnt to a crisp by the device.

Plugin zappers for indoor use come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Rectangular or box-shaped zappers are often used indoors, and they can be placed on a flat surface or hung on a wall. These zappers often have larger bulbs that might attract insects from a wider area. However, they are not the only type of indoor zapper.

lantern zapper

Lantern zappers

Lamp-shaped zappers are very popular, and they have the advantage of being more portable and with an attractive design. However, the surface they cover is not as important as a big box-shaped insect killer. They can be hung from the ceiling or placed on flat surfaces. They generally have a removable tray to collect the dead insects.

Some lantern bug zappers now include an attractant, octenol, to try and improve efficacity in trapping mosquitoes.

light bulb zapper
light bulb insect killer

The two other forms of plugin zappers are smaller.

Light bulb bug zapper

The light bulb insect killer screws into a light fitting. The bulb produces a UV light that attracts the bugs; they are then killed by the high voltage grid surrounding the UV bulb.

It can be turned on to provide regular light with the bug zapper, just light or the bug zapper only.

Wall socket plugin zappers

BRISON Plugin Bug Zapper
Plugin bug/mosquito zapper

These are small plugin zappers that plug directly into a power outlet. There is no need for cables, and this little zapper takes up very little space. The unit can be turned on or off with a switch.

Emits a UV light to attract insects which are then electrocuted by the electric grid. The outer plastic grid should be narrow enough to prevent little fingers from touching the electric grid. This socket zapper has a small range, but you can put them in each room as needed.

Outdoor Plugin Bug Zappers

Most outdoor bug zappers are of a lantern design, and they work in the same way as the lantern zappers used indoors. The best zappers are designed to cover an acre, with the most powerful advertised as covering 11/2 acres. They should be of sturdy construction that will not crack or rust.

Flowtron bug zapper
exterior insect killer

They have options for hanging or being placed on a flat surface, but you will probably need an extension cable as it’s not recommended to put them near areas where there is a gathering of people.

An ideal placement would be about 5 to 7 feet from the ground and about 25 feet away from any human activity. Ideally, this could be between an area where insects may rest or breed, like woodland, standing water, or shrubs, and the area where people need to be protected.

If you have a larger property, you may need several zappers. But to avoid the unnecessary killing of bugs, only place them near areas where there is human activity. Also, to avoid killing beneficial bugs, turn them off when you are no longer outside.

The American Mosquito Control Association gives detail of some research that suggests an insect zapper is not a good mosquito killer. Manufacturers of some external bug zappers now include octenol, an attractant chemical found in human breath and sweat in an effort to make their outdoor bug zapper more appealing to the mosquito population and biting flies.

Battery Operated or Cordless Bug Zappers

battery operated zapper

Battery-operated zappers have the advantage of being very portable, which makes them ideal for camping trips, picnics, and other outdoor activities.

Some come with rechargeable batteries, and others need alkaline batteries. A rechargeable bug zapper is better as it provides more independence. The rechargeable units use a USB charger which means they can charge from a computer or a power bank. These zappers can be used indoors and outside.

Racket zappers

A racket zapper also has its place and can be used indoors or outdoors. It is not a passive zapper, like most others. You have a go-after the insects with this one, but this isn’t a problem as many people seem to treat chasing a flying insect as a bit of fun.

racket bug zapper

As bug zappers aren’t particularly renowned for attracting mosquitoes this could be a good mosquito swatter.

These zappers often come with rechargeable lithium batteries or use 2 AA batteries. Some of these racket fly zappers even have a led bulb that illuminates the pests in the dark.

If you have children or pets, it’s a good idea to make sure the handheld zapper has a protective grid to prevent accidental shocks.


solar powered zapper

As its name suggests, the solar-powered model operates in the same vein as traditional bug zappers, but they typically depend on sunlight to work. They can be efficient in eliminating bugs, but they tend to get depleted quickly, and if they are not charged sufficiently by sunlight, they will not work effectively.

If you want an environment-friendly model that does not employ electricity, you can get a model with this function. However, you have to be extra patient for it. Many have USB chargers to complete the charge if there is not enough sun. These zappers can be used indoors and outdoors.

Bug Traps

bug trap
bug trap

Bug traps, meanwhile, do not make use of electricity to kill bugs. However, they do need electricity to operate. The advantage of using such devices is consumers will not have to contend with smelly burning insects or those popping sounds that bugs make whenever they hit the device’s grill.

Several models of bug traps are considered more humane since they do not eliminate as many beneficial bugs. They use UV light to attract bugs, and then they may use a fan to suck the insects into the trap, where they may be stuck on glue boards or left to dry out.

More elaborate versions of bug traps for outdoor and indoor use can emit carbon dioxide to be more attractive to mosquitoes.

Bug traps work decently enough, particularly if you utilize them in the house. They are also ideal for households with children and pets since they do not utilize an electric grid to get rid of bugs.

stick insect trap

Then there are also the tried-and-true sticky traps meant for fruit flies, gnats, aphids, mosquitoes, and other kinds of flying bugs. This specific trap uses an ultra-sticky yellow surface to lure in bugs, and once they come into contact with the sticky areas, they get stuck and die. They work indoors pretty well and are ideal for households with minimal bugs, and are very useful around plants.

However, harmless animals like lizards or butterflies can get stuck on them too, so some people are not interested in this method.

Summing Up

Bug zappers and their ilk indeed operate with success, as long as users employ them the proper way. It also helps if you do not think too highly of them and expect too much. The kind of zapper that will work in your surroundings will depend on its settings. It is also up to you to decide what type you need.

You have several choices to make.

  • Do you want to use it indoors or outside or even both?
  • Do you need something portable that is easy to transport and can be used anywhere?
  • Do you want a zapper that will work without an electricity supply?
  • What sort of insects do you want to catch?

Whatever your needs there is a bug zapper or insect trap that can be right for your situation.

Photo of author


Peter spends most of his time outside in his large garden. He has been fighting mosquitoes for a few years trying different traps and repellents without using agressive chemicals.