Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila
You’re all set to laze on a lounge chair, tend to your flower garden, or enjoy a backyard cookout with your friends, but flying insects put a damper on your fun. We tested some of the top bug zappers in our own backyards, because when deterrent sprays and citronella torches are not enough, one of the best bug zappers can get rid of those flying pests.
From flies and moths to those miserable mosquitoes hovering over your food, buzzing in your face, and biting your body, bugs can ruin a good summer party. We put the bug zappers on our list to the test to determine which ones were most effective at cutting down biting insects. Keep reading to see what we discovered and find out why the products below are our top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Flowtron BK40DK 1-Acre Electronic Insect Killer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Black+Decker BDPC941 Bug Zapper
- BEST HANDHELD: Mosiller Smart Bug Zapper Electric Fly Swatter Racket
- BEST SOLAR-POWERED: Pic Solar Insect Killer Torch
- BEST FOR INDOORS: Aspectek HR292-1 20W Indoor Electronic Bug Zapper
- BEST FOR MOSQUITOES: Flowtron BK80D 1½-Acre Electronic Insect Killer
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Bug Zappers
We evaluated our top six bug zappers by putting them to the test during the height of flying insect season in the South. Our test models included both indoor and outdoor units. We considered how effectively each unit attracted and killed bugs by running each zapper for a set amount of time at night and examining the insect body count afterward.
In addition to how effective each bug zapper was at killing insects, we also considered a bug zapper’s coverage area along with how easy it was to set up and take down. Since bug zappers impact the looks of an outdoor living space, we also considered the aesthetics of each bug zapper and included models that blend well with their surroundings along with those that are high performing.
No one likes sharing their living spaces with winged invaders. Our list of recommendations aims to help shoppers cut back on flying insects at their next backyard cookout or outdoor soiree. We looked at the range of products on offer in the market to gather a list of products to test. Each of these affordable gadgets eliminate flies, moths, mosquitoes, and other winged pests that fly into their wires.
We made sure to include several plug-in models, a manual battery-powered option, and even an attractive solar-powered unit so that shoppers can find a bug zapper that best suits their requirements.
Our Top Picks
Don’t let flying insects put a damper on your next backyard barbeque or summer dinner party. The best bug zappers are functional and safe, making it easier to eliminate nuisance bugs. With the considerations below in mind, we tested all six to make the following recommendations for the best bug zappers for keeping pesky insects at bay.
The Flowtron 1-acre bug zapper uses a bait-and-kill design that’s simple but very effective. It consists of two black light bulbs surrounded by an electrified grid. When bugs fly to the light, they come into contact with the grid, which zaps them out of existence with high-voltage electricity.
Setting up the Flowtron was easy. It can sit on a flat surface or hang from a hook via the ring on the top of the unit. To turn it on, simply plug it in to a standard extension cord and power outlet. Unfortunately, there’s no “off” switch on the Flowtron, so we suggest plugging it into an outdoor power strip with a switch.
During our testing, we found this design to be exceptionally effective at killing insects. Less than a minute after we plugged it in, the Flowtron quickly began reducing the population of flying insects around our back patio. Assessing the Flowtron’s effectiveness was easy since each kill produces a bright spark of orange accompanied by an audible snap.
While we liked the fact that we could see and hear results with the Flowtron, we could see how the repeated snapping could become annoying (not to mention macabre), especially when dining outdoors or entertaining. Flowtron’s claim that it can reduce insects over a 1-acre area seems a little ambitious, but we can report a definite reduction in biting insects around our patio while we were using it.
The Flowtron won’t win any awards for looks. Its lantern-style frame, very bright lights, and dangling power cord will certainly detract from the aesthetics of most outdoor living spaces. That said, those serious about fighting back against biting insects will find this Flowtron bug zapper a top option.
Read our full review: Flowtron BK40DK 1-Acre Electronic Insect Killer
- Power source: Plug-in
- Suitability: Outdoors
- Coverage area: 1 acre
- Its black light design is very effective at attracting and killing insects
- Contains slot for adding scented bait to lure mosquitoes away from humans
- Plug-and-play installation makes it easy to set up
- Must plug in and unplug to turn it on and off
- Design detracts from the aesthetics of one’s outdoor living space
Get the Flowtron 1-acre bug zapper at The Home Depot or Walmart.
This Black+Decker outdoor bug zapper provides protection against flying pests across as much as 625 square feet of outdoor space (or indoors) with its long-lasting UV light. Made for the outdoors, its housing keeps the zapper lit and operating through rain and wind.
Among the design elements that set the Black+Decker apart from other zappers is its quiet operation and dim light. Unlike zappers that electrocute bugs, the Black+Decker kills them without the audible snap. While this is a nice feature, those accustomed to hearing bugs pop when they hit the zapper may wonder if it’s actually working. We wondered that as well until we pulled out the tray and found a significant body count of insects after a few hours of use.
The Black+Decker is indeed effective at taking out bugs, though it’s not nearly as prolific an insect assassin as the bug zappers we tested that use brighter fluorescent lights. While Black+Decker’s dimmer bulbs may be less harsh on the eyes, we found the biting insects were less likely to go to the light than they were to our skin. Our test home was near a heavily wooded area, and we found the Black+Decker zapper simply wasn’t powerful enough to make a significant dent in the local biting insect population. That said, we can see it being effective in an area that’s not as densely populated with insects.
The affordable Black+Decker zapper’s design is basic, but the zapper includes a few simple yet effective features. A removable collection tray and small cleaning brush make it easy to clear away victims each morning. We also liked the fact that the cover is more sleek and streamlined than those of classic bug zappers. That, coupled with its small size and dim light, makes it less of an eyesore than other bug zappers.
While the Black+Decker bug zapper is less conspicuous than others, with its limited effectiveness, it is best suited for culling smaller bug populations or as an indoor mosquito zapper.
- Power source: Plug-in
- Suitability: Indoors and outdoors
- Coverage area: 625 square feet
- Easy to empty and clean with removable tray and included grid brush
- Relatively quiet operation; dim light and sleek design make it less of an eyesore
- Affordable solution that is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use
- Convenient ring and chain for hanging; use the base for standing
- Some bugs can stick to the light
- Not as effective for areas with large bug populations
Get the Black+Decker bug zapper at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
The Mosiller smart bug zapper is a handheld lamp designed to solve indoor fly and mosquito problems. It consists of a handle that extends to dual UV lamp bulbs inside a circular frame (think futuristic bug swatter). Bugs are attracted to the wand’s UV light and then fatally shocked by the electrified grid.
We were skeptical when first trying out this handheld bug zapper; however, we found it works surprisingly well. Shortly after activating the light, we were zapping bugs with ease. Since the zapper pops with each kill, it’s easy to tell when you’ve eliminated any insect threats.
With the Mosiller’s smaller size and modern look, it also ranks as one of the more attractive bug zappers on the market. It can sit out when company’s over or when everyone is eating outdoors. That said, it’s also not as effective at taking out insects as the larger lantern-style bug zappers on this list.
We also liked the fact that the unit is wireless, which made it easy to set up or move from place to place. It includes a base that recharges the zapper and allows it to sit on a flat surface, eliminating the need to hold it at all times. As handheld bug zappers go, this model is a good solution for keeping flying insects in check outdoors or as one of the best indoor fly zappers to control those that have found their way inside.
- Power source: Wireless
- Suitability: Indoors and outdoors; store indoors
- Coverage area: N/A
- Effective at killing flying insects when the lights are low
- Safety layers to prevent accidental shock
- Rechargeable battery design makes it easy to use around the house
- Must dim the lights inside significantly for it to work
- No collection tray; bugs drop dead where they are hit
Get the Mosiller handheld bug zapper at Amazon.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this attractive torch-style bug zapper just served as landscaping lighting. It combines a flickering LED flame that mimics warm candlelight with a blue UV LED light that attracts insects. This design makes it a nice alternative to the more conspicuous lantern-style bug zappers that use bright blue fluorescent lights. The Pic solar torch is also a silent killer; you won’t hear any audible sizzling as it kills insects. The set includes a torch, height-adjustable stake, and a base for tabletop use.
Along with being more attractive, the torch also requires no power source as it runs on an LED battery that’s charged each day by natural sunlight (each charge lasts 6 hours or more). Since this waterproof torch can live outside year-round and automatically turns on when the sun sets, it is truly an automated form of bug control.
While the Pic solar insect torch will certainly blend with the aesthetics of an outdoor living space better than traditional bug zappers, there’s a definite trade-off in performance. After a night of use, we did find deceased bugs inside the torch and in the removable tray under it. However, it doesn’t kill nearly as many insects as other bug zappers. This makes the torch useful for nights in which mosquito activity is light, but it won’t be of much help against larger waves of biting insects.
Those looking for a bug zapper that will blend with the landscaping and decor and who only need a solution for light mosquito activity will find that the Pic solar insect torch is a great option.
- Power source: Solar powered
- Suitability: Outdoors
- Coverage area: Manufacturer claims ½ acre; we’d estimate around 5,000 square feet based on our testing
- Aesthetically pleasing torch and faux-flame effect
- Stakes and base allow user to create multiple height options
- Easy to place anywhere that can collect solar power; can leave outside
- Not as effective at killing bugs as traditional bug zappers
Get the Pic bug zapper at Amazon (set of 2), Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Walmart.
Aspectek’s indoor bug zapper is an ideal choice when dealing with a flying insect problem indoors. Place it on a countertop or mount it to a wall with the included hanging chain. It uses dual UV lamp bulbs and an electrified metal grid to attract and kill all types of flying insects. The sturdy mesh screen prevents accidental human or pet contact with the electrified bug-zapping grid, while a removable and washable bug-collection tray makes maintenance simple and quick.
During our testing of this indoor bug zapper, we found it to be just as effective as any of the outdoor models we tested that use the same black light bulb and electrified grate design. It attracts and dispatches bugs at a high rate, making it an excellent option. In fact, it works so well that it seems a bit like overkill for a home interior that already has basic bug protection from door and window screens.
The Aspectek also emits a loud pop when it claims a victim, which is a bit unsettling for indoor use. Couple that with its utilitarian look and bright black light and it probably isn’t something most people would want in their bedroom, bathroom, or living room. Unless you’re dealing with a significant fly or mosquito problem in your home’s main living area, this bug zapper is better suited for unfinished indoor spaces, such as a garage, screened-in porch, or covered patio.
- Power source: Plug-in
- Suitability: Indoors or covered outdoor areas
- Coverage area: 1,000 square feet
- Very effective design for attracting and killing flying insects indoors
- Safety layer prevents accidental shock from touching the unit
- Easy to move from room to room due to small size and ease of setup
- Makes a popping sound when insects come into contact with it
- Bright light and utilitarian look not ideal for indoor aesthetics
Get the Aspectek bug zapper at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The Flowtron 1½-acre bug zapper is a powerful outdoor zapper for defeating bloodsucking foes. Like other zappers, it uses black light to attract flying insects and an electrified grid to take them out. The difference is that this model is much larger. It features four black light bulbs and a large metal grid. The result, as we found, is a bug zapper that’s capable of killing a lot of insects.
Setting up the Flowtron is easy, as it comes fully assembled. Once it’s plugged in, flying insects of all kinds are instantly attracted to this bright beacon, resulting in a fireworks-like display of bug zapping. In fact, the zapper worked so well for us that it had the unfortunate side effect of being quite noisy and creating a lingering odor of toasted insects.
Since it’s also quite large and emits a very bright light, we suggest hanging it some distance away from outdoor living areas. Post-testing cleanup wasn’t as difficult as we imagined since the Flowtron has a nonclogging design that prevents bug corpses from getting caught in the grid.
A protective guard prevents kids, pets, and other wildlife from accidentally touching the zapper. You can also pair this bug zapper with a mosquito attractant to boost mosquito-killing effectiveness. Flowtron offers an optional octenol-based attractant insert (not included). Made for outdoor use, this unit will hang from a hook or sit on a flat surface. Given how powerful it is, we’d recommend hanging from a height that’s out of reach of children or pets just to be on the safe side.
- Power source: Plug-in
- Suitability: Outdoors
- Coverage area: 1½ acres
- Multiple black light bulbs and large electrified grid attract and kill lots of flying insects
- Nonclogging design prevents bug corpses from building up on the grid
- Simple setup, no assembly required; simply plug it in
- Too bright and loud to be used close to outdoor living spaces
Get the Flowtron 1½-acre bug zapper at The Home Depot or Walmart.
What to Consider When Choosing a Bug Zapper
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. They feature an ultraviolet (UV) light that insects can’t resist. When the bugs try to get to the light, they pass through an electrified wire grid that kills them on contact. Dead bugs then drop into a removable collection tray, which can be emptied as often as needed (usually every 2 to 7 days, depending on the prevalence of pests).
Keep the following factors in mind when selecting the best bug zapper for either an indoor or outdoor space.
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila
Bug zappers run on a variety of power sources, most of which are plug-in electric power. An electric bug zapper will need an exterior outlet if it’s outdoors. Alternatively, use an extension cord, but be sure that it’s labeled for outdoor use.
Lightweight and portable battery-powered bug zappers make great companions on camping trips, at tailgate parties, and during other outdoor activities. They can hang from trees or sit on a table. Racquet-type zappers, another battery-operated option, are like electrified fly swatters that shock the bugs they come in contact with.
The sun powers the newest, most versatile outdoor bug zappers. Just position them in sunlight during the day to charge their internal batteries, and switch them on (unless so they do so automatically) at dusk to start zapping pests at home or on the go.
Outdoor vs. Indoor
While they perform the same function, outdoor zappers are designed to withstand the elements better than indoor ones. They also tend to be bigger and include larger collection trays. Hanging, electric bug-zapper units are a popular and attractive option for a patio or seating area.
The best Indoor bug zapper options sometimes feature white UV lights, as opposed to the often-distracting deep purple lights seen in outdoor models. The best indoor bug-zapper products tend to be wall fixtures and countertop units, since they are the easiest to install indoors.
Some types of bug zappers work well both indoors and out, so check the label before buying.
The electrified grid in 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 fly swatters,” can be a different story.
Press a button on the tennis racket–type handle to electrify the grid, then swing the head of the racquet at flies or other insects. If it makes contact with bugs, they’re zapped. But beware: Anyone, human or insect, who touches the grid when the button is depressed will get a shock. To prevent accidental zaps, look for a handheld zapper with a protective layer. Keep pets out of swatting range, and remind kids that electric fly swatters are not toys.
Many flying insects are attracted to light, but a University of Delaware study found that bug zappers kill more nonbiting insects, such as flying beetles and moths, than they do biters, such as mosquitoes and biting flies.
Bug zappers that kill mosquitoes amp up their effectiveness with bait containing octenol, the chemical found in human breath and sweat that mosquitoes find irresistible. Octenol comes as small lures that adhere to the inside of the zapper’s collection tray, and one lure attracts mosquitoes for up to 3 months. As an option, users can grab a handheld zapper and hunt the mosquitoes manually. A racket-style zapper is an excellent choice for the best mosquito zapper indoors, too.
When on the hunt for an outdoor bug zapper, it’s a good idea for shoppers to check for the coverage area listed, which is often by acreage. While there are no industry standards, typically a larger coverage area means brighter UV lights in the zappers so that bugs see them from a greater distance.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists bug zappers as “pesticide devices.” 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.
When you’re using the best bug zapper, flying insects are less likely to put a damper on your evening plans. Before selecting a new bug zapper, check out the following common questions and their corresponding answers to learn more about these bug-eliminating gadgets.
Q. How do bug zappers work?
Most freestanding or hanging bug zappers attract insects with a bright light and electrocute them with an electrical mechanism once they land. An electric fly swatter, on the other hand, employs a racquet-style design with an electrified mesh to zap any bugs in its path.
Q. What kind of bugs does a bug zapper kill?
Bug zappers can kill any bug that comes in contact with their wired grids, beneficial or otherwise.
Q. Do bug zappers work in daylight?
An active bug zapper will still kill bugs that come in contact with it during the day. However, its luring rays do not work as effectively in the daylight.
Q. Should I leave a bug zapper on all night?
The longer a bug zapper is left on, the more bugs it will trap. It’s best to turn off outdoor bug zappers at night once you’ve come inside, since there’s no need to continue killing bugs throughout the night. However, it is effective to leave an indoor bug zapper on overnight to kill as many bugs within a room as possible.
Q. Do bug zappers use a lot of electricity?
No, bug zappers do not use very much electricity. If electricity use is a concern, opt for a battery- or solar-powered zapper.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Angi, Popular Science, Futurism, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Domino, and more. Tony has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.
Additional research provided by Glenda Taylor and Jasmine Harding.