The Best Bug Zappers for Indoors and Out
Eliminate flying insects, indoors or out, with the right device. Keep reading for our top tips and recommendation for selecting the best bug zapper for your needs and budget.
You’re all set to laze on a lounge chair, tend to your flower garden, and enjoy a backyard cookout with your friends. The only thing that could put a damper on your fun? Flying insects—from flies and moths to those miserable mosquitoes—hovering over your food and around your face. And let’s not even talk about the biting.
If you’ve tried deterrent sprays and citronella torches but had no satisfying success in ridding your yard of pesky pests… don’t bug out! Keep reading to learn how to select the right bug zapper for your needs and budget and to find out why the below are top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: BLACK+DECKER Outdoor Bug Zapper
- EDITOR’S CHOICE: ZAP IT! Bug Zapper
- BEST FOR INDOORS: Zepol Labs Mergence Indoor Bug Zapper
What a Killer Concept!
Bug zappers have been around longer than you probably think. An early prototype featured an electric light and a chunk of bait encased within an electrified cage. Insects, attracted by the light and bait, were electrocuted when they touched the cage.
Many of the best bug zappers today work on the same simple concept, featuring an ultraviolet (UV) light that insects can’t resist. They pass through an electrified wire grid that—bzzzt!—kills them on contact. Dead bugs then drop into a collection tray, which can be emptied as often as needed (usually two to seven days, depending on the prevalence of pests).
Choosing a Bug Zapper
Here are the different types of bug zappers you’ll find on the market today.
- Plug-in zappers: The majority of bug zappers are powered by electricity, so you’ll need an exterior outlet if you plan to put one outdoors. Alternately, you can use an extension cord—just ensure that it’s labeled for outdoor use. Indoor zappers plug into an interior outlet.
- Battery operated zappers: Intended for camping, tailgating, and other outdoor activities where electricity isn’t available, these lightweight, portable zappers can be hung in trees or set on a table. Racquet-type zappers (swing them at insects as you would a flyswatter) operate exclusively on batteries.
- Solar zappers: The newest, most versatile zappers are solar powered. They can be used at home or on the go—just position them in sunlight during the day to charge their internal batteries, and they’ll automatically turn on a dusk and start zapping flying pests.
The electrified grid in today’s plug-in and lantern-type bug zappers is safely contained within a plastic cage to prevent fingers from inadvertently touching the grid and receiving a shock. Racquet-type zappers, also called “electric flyswatters,” are a different story. Press a button on the tennis-racket-type handle to electrify the grid, and then swing the head of the racquet at flies or other insects. If you make contact with the bug—they’re zapped. Touching the grid when the button is depressed will also give the user a shock, so take care when using a swatting-type zapper, and remind kids that they’re not toys.
Bait Those Biting Bugs
Many flying insects are attracted to light, but a recent University of Delaware study found that bug zappers kill fewer biting bugs, such as mosquitos and biting flies, than such non-biting insects as flying beetles and moths. If you want a bug zapper to kill mosquitos, amp its effectiveness with bait containing octenol, the chemical found in human breath and sweat that mosquitos find irresistible. Octenol—sold under the labels “mosquito bait” and “mosquito attractant”—comes in small packed lures that adhere to the inside of the zapper’s collection tray. One lure attracts mosquitos for up to three months.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Zappers
While they perform the same function, outdoor zappers are designed to withstand the elements and are often bigger with larger collection trays. Indoor zappers often feature white UV lights, as opposed to the deep purple color seen in outdoor zappers, a color many people find distracting. Some bug zappers can be used either indoors or outdoors, so check the label before buying.
Coverage Area Concerns
When shopping for an outdoor zapper, you’ll find a coverage area listed, often by acreage. While there are no industry standards, typically, the UV lights in the zappers with the greatest coverage are brighter so they can be seen by bugs from a greater distance. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists bug zappers as “pesticide devices,” and while the EPA admonishes manufacturers not to make false claims about their products, they do not regulate the bug zapper industry, so exaggerated claims may occur.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: BLACK+DECKER Outdoor Bug Zapper
The BLACK+DECKER Bug Outdoor Bug Zapper deters pests from up to a half acre of outdoor area with its high-intensity UV light. Its waterproof housing keeps the zapper lit and operating even during a storm, and it comes with an easy-to-remove bottom collection tray for dead bug disposal. On top of being effective against flying pests, the BLACK+DECKER also boasts a number of practical features—it comes with a hook for hanging and a 5-foot power cord.
2. EDITOR’S CHOICE: ZAP IT! Bug Zapper
Work on your backhand while hunting down flies and gnats, inside or outside. The ZAP IT! Bug Zapper operates on two AA batteries (included). Press the ON button, and when the indicator light turns red, swat away. Any insects you swat will die on contact with the electrified grid.
3. BEST FOR INDOORS: Zepol Labs Mergence Indoor Bug Zapper
If the snap, crackle, and pop of insect electrocution keeps you up at night, give the Zepol Lab’s Mergence Indoor Bug Zapper a try. Its insulating technology virtually eliminates noise, and unlike traditional lantern-style zappers, it features a white UV light and a visually attractive curved design that resembles a designer wall sconce when mounted. The front cover opens upward to reveal the removable collection tray. Buyers rate the Zepol highly its good looks, silent operation, and effectiveness.