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Science File | I Didn't Know That

September 11, 1997

Q: Do electric bug zappers keep away mosquitoes and other biting insects?

A: No, according to entomologist Jonathan Day of the University of Florida. In fact, their light actually attracts more mosquitoes to your yard, compounding the problem. But they do kill thousands of beneficial insects that don't bother people, he said.

The main problem is that mosquitoes are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide. Although the insects will be attracted to your yard by the zapper's light, once they get close they will be diverted by carbon dioxide being breathed out by humans in the area. In a typical study conducted by Day and his colleagues, they found that among the 10,000 insects destroyed by a zapper in a one-night experiment, only eight were mosquitoes.

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