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Picture this: You're enjoying a gorgeous night in the backyard with your family, taking in the starry sky, the smell of the bonfire and ... the sound of bugs whizzing by your ear? Alas, nothing dampens a nice, relaxing evening quite like the buzz of a tiny pest—and the inevitable itchy lumps that come with them. While citronella sprays may throw an insect off your scent to a small degree, they've largely been proven ineffective (and have a tendency to stink up the family barbecue). In order to save your sanity, and in some cases, your skin, you may consider the best bug zapper to take flies, gnats and their other winged cousins out of the equation.

How Does a Bug Zapper Work?

There are two main things that bug zappers do in an effort to put a swift end to winged pests: lure and kill. Most of these gadgets feature a glowing light that is particularly attractive to bugs at night and electrically charged coils with a high enough voltage (around 4,000 volts) to stop them in their tracks. There are also handheld zappers, which look like tennis rackets, but feature electric strings that can zap the fly you’ve been chasing with the swatter for the past 60 minutes.

So how effective are they? That all depends on what kind of pests you're trying to eliminate. While a bug zapper will undoubtedly kill bugs by the tons, they may not be the ones you're after. According to a 1982 study from the University of Notre Dame, an electric zapper left on for eight consecutive nights yielded a haul of just 3.3 percent female mosquitos (aka the biggest biters).

Another study from the University of Notre Dame found in testing that while bug zappers do attract thousands of insects, only approximately 4.1 to 6.4 percent of their average daily catch is made up of mosquitos. More unfortunate, these electrical devices did not lower the number of these blood-sucking insects from a yard.

The pests you are killing with shockers (roughly 71 billion each year nationwide, according to a study from the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences), including beetles, moths, ants, midges and parasitic wasps, may even have some beneficial properties, such as pest insect control and nourishment for songbirds.

That said, there are still thousands of reviewers who swear by these gadgets for peace of mind, including celebs like Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, who have "a bug zapper the size of a flat screen TV," according to a Father's Day Instagram post the Bad Moms actress shared. "Even though we don’t have many bugs in our house, though maybe with that sentence I’ve just proven [a] point," she joked.

How to Clean a Bug Zapper

Bug zappers tend to produce a lot of waste (namely in the form of dead pests), which can get extremely gross if they're not cleaned over time. Most of these gadgets feature compartments that can unload right into a garbage can. You can also vacuum them to remove loose debris and dislodge any miniature legs or wings that may be stuck to surfaces with a toothbrush or hair dryer (though we recommend wearing a pair of gloves to avoid any potential bacteria found on these buggers that a zap cannot destroy). You'll also want to make sure they aren't kept close to any food items, like an outdoor grill, or areas where your kids might play.

Bug Zappers vs. Bug Traps

While bug zappers attract bugs via light and electrocute them, bug traps, which can look extremely similar, use attractants that claim to be particularly enticing to female mosquitos. Many also have fans that suck bugs into a sticky net or electric grid. The first experimental study on their performance, which took place in 2017, observed a 70 percent mosquito nuisance reduction when using 16 Techno Bam traps spread out over 1.5 kilometers.

What is the Best Bug Zapper?

If you choose to take your chances on a bug zapper, you'll want to look for one that has a strong voltage, is durable to the elements, easy to clean and effectively lures and removes bugs from your space. Below, find options from top brands such as Gootop and Black + Decker that shoppers say are the cream of the crop.

The Best Bug Zappers at a Glance



RELATED: The 15 Best Mosquito Repellents to Keep Those Pesky Bugs Away



1. Gootop Bug Zapper

Best Overall Bug Zapper
  • Why We Love It: High voltage, easy to hang, lantern-like

When it comes to bursting a bugs’ bubble, look no further than this zapper from Gootop. It has a 4,200 voltage bulb that glows a bright blue hue and zaps insects that get too close. We also love that it comes with a carabiner on the top that makes it easy to hang from your porch, pergola, deck or even near your camping site to put an end to the whine of gnats at night. As it added bonus, it also features a lantern-like design that isn’t terrible to look at.

$60; $36 at Amazon

The Home Depot

2. Bite Shield Racket Bug Zapper

Best Bug Zapper for Flies
  • Why We Love It: Handheld, lightweight, effective

This bug swatter has seriously changed my life when it comes to removing flies that have snuck into my apartment. Gone are the days that I would run around like a madwoman, whipping a plastic fly swatter around. Instead, I just press a button on this racket to activate the electricity on its mesh surface, corner the bug in question and zap it. Typically, I do need to vacuum up any remains, but I’ve found it to be a much quicker option for larger bug removal in the home.

Buy It ($12)


3. Livin’ Well Bug Zapper

Best Outdoor Bug Zapper
  • Why We Love It: Covers a lot of ground, weatherproof, large holding tank

Designed to cover spaces of up to 1,500 square feet, the Livin’ Well bug zapper is ideal for those with larger outdoor areas. The weatherproof gadget uses a powerful 4,000-volt bulb that both attracts and zaps nearby pests. We're also fans of the removable tray, which has a particularly large holding capability, though you’ll still want to empty it every few days or so. It has a modern lantern shape that can stand on its own or hang from its top loop, but note that the 72-inch cord needs to be plugged in for it to glow.

$37; $35 at Amazon


4. Aspectek Bug Zapper

Best Indoor Bug Zapper
  • Why We Love It: Large surface area, easy clean-up

We chose this one because its box shape gives it the ideal surface area to trap indoor pests when resting on a counter or when hung from the wall. (Read: Fruit flies and gnats don’t stand a chance against it.) Two 20-watt UV lights attract and zap 'em without any work on your end, and the mesh grate provides some protection from curious little hands while still allowing flying insects to sneak in. Clean up is easy, too, since the bottom tray can be pulled out to be dumped and washed.

$51; $40 at Amazon


5. Black + Decker Bug Zapper

Best Electric Bug Zapper
  • Why We Love It: Trusted brand, quiet, included accessories

This one's sleek, black design and removable tray for clean up make this bug zapper a winner, but we think it's the extras that set it apart from the pack. In addition to its standard high-voltage light, which reportedly offers dependable coverage for more than 43,000-square-feet, it comes with accessories (namely, a chain for hanging and a small brush to clean up any debris that may have been lodged in the holes and a user's guide). Shoppers say it's also quiet while it's zapping away. With consistent use, you will need to change the bulbs out every few months or so, but that’s easy to do.

$65; $56 at Amazon


6. Zap It! Bug Zapper Racket

  • Why We Love It: Rechargeable, built-in LED, safety mesh
This handheld zapper is popular for a reason. Like the Bite Shield, it can destroy flying pests with a flick of your wrist, and we think using it is honestly quite fun. It's got a bit of a leg up, however, thanks to the built-in LED light that will act as a siren's song for your intended targets. It's rechargeable via a USB cord, and the mesh safety net helps to ensure that you don't accidentally zap yourself. Better yet, it comes in a two-pack, so you can stash them in areas where bugs always seem to be lurking.

$35; 28 at Amazon



7. Zevo Flying Insect Trap

Best Plug-In Bug Trap
  • Why We Love It: Easy to clean, wall plug-in, no chemical smell

We love the fact that this pint-sized insect remover plugs right into an outlet, like an air freshener, albeit with a deadly effect for the flying creatures in your home—without the use of chemical insecticides. Bugs will be inclined to check out the glow, only to find themselves stuck onto adhesive backing. Clean up is as easy as removing the sticky paper, and it can be plugged in anywhere there's an outlet for pest prevention.

Buy It ($20)

The Home Depot

8. Dynatrap Glow UV Bug Trap

Best Cordless Bug Trap
  • Why We Love It: No smell, innovative, no sticky tape

For some serious buzzing destruction, this cordless option is no joke. Between the UV bulb, CO2 trail that's meant to mimic human breath and its quiet fan, it reportedly attracts unwanted and annoying mosquitos, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and yellow jackets on multiple levels from up to an acre (more than 43,000-square-feet) away. From there, the bugs are held in a retaining cage, where they'll dehydrate. It doesn’t zap persay, but it also doesn’t require an electric zapper or cords. For best use, the company recommends keeping it about 20 to 40 feet away from where people will be sitting.

Buy It ($125)


9. Shieldeck GlowTrap

Best Smart Bug Trap
  • Why We Love It: Smart sensor, compact, automatic lights

Yes, even bug zappers have entered the smart home category. The Shieldeck GlowTrap uses a UV light to lure in pests, a fan to suck said bugs in and sticky paper to render them trapped. However, the gadget takes things up a notch with a smart sensor that’s aware of both nearby pests and when it’s dark enough for the UV light to automatically turn on. It’s also quite small, making it easy to put in your living room or carry out to a table outside.

Buy It ($60)


10. Katchy Bug Trap

Best Mosquito Trap
  • Why We Love It: Targets mosquitos and small-flying bugs, easy to clean

Mosquitoes and fruit flies are some of the smallest (and most annoying) pests, which make them especially hard to catch and remove. We included this trap because functions a little differently from other zappers. It has a purple UV light to attract the bug, plus a small-yet-powerful fan to suck it in and sticky boards at the bottom to trap it. Its design is incredibly easy to clean and the fans ensure no buzzards get out. While it's only intended for indoor use, it’s great for trapping houseplant killers, like gnats and aphids.

$50; $35 at Amazon

RELATED: Do Mosquito-Repellent Plants Work? Here's Why and What You Should Try Instead

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