Bed Bugs and Bug Zappers (I didn’t know)

We try all sorts of different methods in our quest to vanquish bed bugs from our residence. Needless to say, some methods are less effective than others and possibly even harmful. So, what about bug zappers? Are they an effective measure against bed bugs? 

Bug zappers are an ineffective tool for eradicating bed bugs. These crawlers are not attracted to light, including the UV light emitted by bug zappers to lure in bugs. So, the zapper will not get a chance to kill these bugs, no matter how powerful it is.

Unfortunately, there are some people with misconceptions regarding bed bugs and UV lights. That is why we bring you this article to hopefully clear up this confusion as well as some others. Knowing more about the pest problem you have will aid you in exterminating them successfully. 

How Do Bug Zappers Work? 

Most of the bug zappers you will find on the market will have the following parts- an external casing, a light source, a wired grid or screens, and a power source. 

The external casing encases the entire structure and typically has a handle to move it around. Usually, they are made out of plastic or electrically grounded metal. So, you do not get electrified in the process of killing the bugs. They come in various shapes and sizes, including lanterns, rackets, cylinders, etc. 

At the center of the zapper, there is a light source that emits visible and/or UV (ultraviolet) light. A lot of bugs have positive phototaxis, meaning they are drawn towards light. So, the light lures in the bugs to make contact with the wires. 

Once the bugs touch the wires, they are hit with a strong jolt of electricity. The current comes from the power source, which is often battery-powered. A transformer converts the weak current into a strong one, and it easily kills most of the bugs you see every day. 

 Are Bed Bugs Attracted to UV Light? 

So, because these tools make killing bugs very convenient, people may think of using them on bed bugs. The problem is that bed bugs are not attracted to any type of light, be it visible or UV. 

Many insects such as cockroaches, bees, grasshoppers have two types of visual receptors called ommatidium and ocelli. These two organs in conjunction help the bugs to recognize movement, interpret color to a simple degree, and perceive the intensity of light. 

While some bug species have an extreme affinity for light, other species show the opposite effect. Instead of coming towards the light, they are repelled by it and seeks shelter. Scientists call this phenomenon “negative phototaxis.” 

Tests have shown that bed bugs are, for the most part, repulsed by bright or UV light. This is because their vision is poorly developed. They have only one type of visual receptor, and even those receptors are short in number.

Want to know more? See our insightful article about Bed Bug Vision

So, they can still perceive color and move around in the daytime. But they much prefer darkness, which is why they come out mainly at night. Bed bugs most likely cannot tell the difference between normal and UV light. 

Can You Use a UV Light to Find Bed Bugs?

Ultraviolet light is a fun tool to find bugs with. The way this works is through a process known as luminescence.  

Certain materials can absorb the UV light and then emit light on their own. One of the more common examples of such a substance is phosphorus. And, as you might know already, phosphorus is abundant in plants and animals. They are one of the fundamental structural elements of most living organisms. 

Now, we do not fully understand how certain species of bugs glow while others do not. But one of the more popular theories is that the phosphorus in the exoskeleton of bugs is responsible.  

Bed bugs also contain phosphorus in their exterior so they can reflect the ultraviolet light. This is why you will see people use UV lamps to check hotel bed sheets and covers. 

However, this is not an effective method as bed bugs will stay away from light sources. They may go deeper into the fabric to hide. At that point, UV light becomes useless as it cannot pierce the fabric in your covers and mattresses. So, UV light is only good at detecting bugs that are on the surface, not the ones underneath. 

Does UV Light Kill Bed Bugs? 

Bed bugs are actually very heat sensitive and vulnerable to high temperatures. Hence, one of the more efficient ways of killing bed bugs is through the use of heat, usually with temperatures at approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

While UV rays are hot enough to get you sunburned, that heat is not enough to kill bed bugs. To reach the temperature that will kill both adult bugs and their eggs, you would need a very powerful UV source. And at that power, it will consequently pose a threat to human health.  

Plus, the bugs are likely to scamper to deeper parts of the fabric, where the UV rays may not even reach. So, UV light is not good at killing bed bugs.

Want to know more about Bed Bugs? Here are some of our most popular articles:
ALL Potential Bed Bug Killers and their Effectiveness (with table)
Bed Bugs – What They Are (and What They Are Not)
Bed Bugs and Your Food (Essential Knowledge)
Do Bed Bugs Bite in the Same Spot? (Important Facts)
Bed Bugs and Yarn (Solution Included)
Can Bed Bugs Be Repelled by Using a High-Frequency Sound?

Does Infrared Light Kill Bed Bugs? 

Infrared light (IR) can kill insects with its heat. But for that to happen you need to keep the IR light on the insects for a long time.  

Once again, this is difficult to achieve with bed bugs. You would essentially need to capture and stock them in a sealed space and then fry them with the light source. But this method is simply not practical and may do you harm as overexposure to IR can cause skin irritation.  

So, you can see that neither UV nor IR light is a potent method for getting rid of bed bugs. You are much better of trying residual pesticides, detergents, or high temperatures. Although, we recommend you consult or bring in a professional before applying any of these methods yourself. 

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