MAY
1992

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

05-28-92

Bug Lights

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.
All across America, the signs of summer are evident. Wrens have returned to backyards to belt out two-ton songs from two-gram bodies. Neighborhoods drone with the weekend sounds of lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and sprinkler systems.

Many homewoners also are engaged in another suburban ritual known as "hanging the bug light." Illuminating the bug light heralds the onset of summer as surely as lighting the tree that signals the Christmas season.

In the good old summertime, the age old battle between humans and insects reaches its peak. Bug lights (Not to be comfused with that popular beverage Bud Light!) are another weapon in the war.

Although they vary in size and shae, all bug lights have a singular purpose...insect incineration! The device functions by using ultraviolet light to attract insects. Many night-flying insects are lured to light, but ultrviolet is the most attractive of all wavelengths. Modern technology has combined this light with open electric wires to form bug-killing devices known generally as bug zappers or bug killers.

Humans have flockedto these devices as surely as moths circle a flame because bug lights kill lots of i nsects. However, research has shown that the insects most homeowners are trying to avoid are not affected by these electrifying devices.

Most female mosquitoes -- the ones that bite and the ones we want to get rid of -- are not attracted to light.

In the case of June bugs, many are killed but many more miss the trap. Subsequently, they land on vegetation in the area and lay eggs in the soil. These hatch into white grubs that will feed the lawn.

Generally, most of the insects that end up being killed in the light traps would not have been there if the light had not been hung in the first place. By using light traps, we end up attracting insects, just the opposite of what homeowners had hoped would happen.

So why do we pay good money for these devices? It's because we like to kill insects. There just is something pleasurable about the sanp, crackle and pop of an insect being fried on the w ires that gives us pleasure.

Nothing compares to sitting in a porch swing on a summer evening and listening to insects commit suicide in a bug light. But, hopefully, it is your neighbor's bug light. That way you konw your insects are being attracted to the neighbor's place and not bugging you.

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Elaine Lambert