Why Bug Zappers Are Bad News — and Not Just For Mosquitoes

There are many ways to catch a fly. Those who grew up in the ‘80s probably remember the colored bags everybody perched on their lawns to coax bugs in by the handful and trap them inside. Of course, sprays, swatters, or a handy pair of chopsticks — if you’re looking for a challenge — can also do the trick. It turns out that the bug zapper is the most popular tool, but now it seems it may do more harm than good. The problem is that an average 71 billion non-target insects are slaughtered by these devices in the U.S. alone every year. Most are beneficial beetles, moths, ants, and parasitic wasps that control other insect pests. Aside from that, bacteria that bugs pick up on the surface of their bodies or accumulate in their digestive canals don’t get zapped. Instead, they go hurtling through the air when an insect is electrocuted. The health threat of having a bug incinerated onto your burger, while completely unappetizing, is actually at the bottom of the list. The good news is that backyard enthusiasts have a number of options for combating mosquitoes, including wearing athletic clothing that bugs can’t bite through, using a decent repellent, and turning on a fan. Mosquitoes are poor fliers, so there’s nothing more effective than a fan.