Do bug lights really work?

Bugs encircle a light. iStock-509668350

Bugs encircle a light. Source: iStock-509668350.

Picture this: You’re lighting off fireworks, eating s’mores and enjoying a cold beverage with friends and family. It’s getting dark, but the party’s going strong. So you flip on the porch light. Then, one by one, the bugs begin to descend on your party. Suddenly, you’re getting pummeled in the head by every passing June Bug. Ugh! Bugs sure know how to crash a party. But what can you do?

Enter bug lights. No, not the kind that gives off the occasional “Zzap!”, but a light bulb that emits colored light that is virtually undetectable to those little bug-eyed well, bugs. According to Nebraska Public Power District’s Energy Efficiency Program Manager, Cory Fuehrer, bug lights can, indeed, reduce the number of bugs.

So how does it work? It’s important to know that bugs are attracted to two things: light and heat. If your light bulb is offering both, you’ve just extended the invitation to your party.

Despite some sales tactics, bug lights do not actually repel bugs. Instead, the bug light works by emitting light that is invisible to insects, or by being too dim for the bugs to notice.

UV light and the infrared spectrum are used by bugs for navigation and locating food. Most insects do not see light around the 650 nm (yellow) range. Since different bugs see different wavelengths of lights, and many are attracted to heat, bug lights are never 100 percent effective, but they are very good at reducing the number of bugs by excluding the light used by the majority.

Spectra from common sources of visible light. Source:

Spectra from common sources of visible light. Source:

Remember that LED lights add the benefit of emitting virtually no heat and they use less energy than an incandescent or CFL bulb. There are several brands of LED bug lights available.

If you plan on being outside after dark, consider investing in a bug light to keep unwanted party guests at bay.


July 2017

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