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The 6 Best Bug Zappers, Repellers, and Traps

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Mosquito season is upon us, and headache-inducing citronella candles are powerless to stop it. Wearing repellent is always a good idea, but if you hate the smell or just live in an area where extra protection is necessary, it’s worth investing in a powered bug zapper or repelling device. The best of these will target specific insect species, rather than killing indiscriminately. Many can even create a completely protective zone in your home or backyard. I spoke with pest-control experts and fellow Strategist staffers about the smartest ways to win the war against bugs this summer and have detailed their recommendations below.

What we’re looking for

Target pest

I’ve taken note of which pest species each of these products is designed to kill, trap, or repel. But you’re probably here to learn about mosquito control, so let’s begin there. Experts told me that bug-zapping UV lamps are ineffective against summer’s most irritating insects. “According to the American Mosquito Control Association, bug zappers do not work, even when combined with some sort of chemical attractant,” says Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann of Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. This is because mosquitoes, unlike harmless moths and dragonflies, don’t fly toward UV light. Indeed, “that satisfying zap noise is more likely killing something that eats mosquitoes than an actual mosquito,” says Alex Wild, curator of entomology for the University of Texas at Austin’s biodiversity collections.

A handheld bug zapper will be more effective than a stationary lamp, because you’ll be actively seeking each target. I’ve also included some non-zapper mosquito-control options on this list, alongside a range of other powered devices that will help you fight houseflies, hornets, and even mice.

Best use

You’ll find a number of recommendations below for pest-control devices that can be used inside and outside your home, giving you peace of mind when camping, picnicking, or just making dinner in the kitchen. There’s even a Wi-Fi–enabled smart mosquito-repelling system that will form a protective barrier around your entire backyard.

Power source

So you can plan ahead, I’ve made it easy to identify whether these devices are plug-ins or USB rechargeables.

Best overall bug zapper

Target pest: Flying and crawling insects | Best use: Indoor and outdoor | Power source: USB rechargeable

Gangloff-Kaufmann says handheld bug zappers are “useful because you are using them against something specific,” unlike stationary ones that indiscriminately kill moths and dragonflies while leaving mosquitoes unscathed. And if you’re going to use a handheld zapper, it may as well be one that can be swung around Serena Williams–style. We’ve been fans of these futuristic fly swatters, which fry bugs but won’t cause much pain to humans who accidentally touch their electrified strings, since Strategist contributor Alison Freer first wrote about them in 2018. While Freer’s favorite racket is no longer available, this beefed-up version with USB charging and an LED light for nighttime zapping has everything you need to attack and kill both flying insects (particularly flies) and crawling ones (it will even fry roaches and spiders, if you can catch them).

Best mosquito repeller for outdoor gatherings

Target pest: Mosquitoes | Best use: Outdoor | Power source: USB rechargeable

When I want to enjoy a balmy evening outdoors under the illusion that flying insects don’t exist, I use this clever USB-rechargeable repeller from Thermacell, which creates a 20-foot mosquito-safe zone. Perfect for patio hangs, camping trips, or whatever small outdoor gathering you’ve got going on, this odd little orb uses low heat to distribute an odorless repellent that will create a protective field in about 15 minutes. There’s no smoke or flame, which makes it safe for kids and avoids the need to carry a lighter. One USB charge lasts around five hours, and the repeller comes with a 12-hour cartridge of repellent that’s easy to insert and relatively affordable to replace. I think of this device as a futuristic and foolproof citronella candle — while not so atmospheric, it’ll do a much better job of preventing bites.

Best smart mosquito repelling system

Target pest: Mosquitoes | Best use: Garden | Power source: Plug-in

Strategist writer Lauren Ro has been testing out this smart mosquito system from Thermacell over the past two years and says it has “completely changed” her family’s relationship with their Brooklyn backyard. Using the same heat-based repelling technology as the orb above, it comes with three stakes that can be used to create a perimeter of mosquito protection that’s Wi-Fi connected, allowing you to turn it on 15 minutes (the required warm-up period) before use via smartphone app. Ro says life without mosquitoes is so game-changing she’ll be purchasing another one of these systems for her front yard soon.

Best personal mosquito repeller

Target pest: Mosquitoes | Best use: Outdoor | Power source: USB rechargeable

Thermacell also makes a personal mosquito repeller that can be gripped and waved around like a magic wand for extra peace of mind.

Best fruit-fly trap

Target pest: Houseflies, fruit flies, gnats | Best use: Indoor | Power source: Plug-in

Strategist deals editor and resident Texan Sam Daly was sent one of these minimal-looking fly traps to test and was “kind of shocked by how quickly it worked.” The plug-in wall unit uses blue light to attract flying insects, then traps them using a replaceable adhesive strip. The strip is hidden from view, which means you don’t have to actually see all the dead bugs you’ve caught on a daily basis. This device makes no sound and is odorless, and Daly likes that you can swivel it into a vertical or horizontal position. She does note that the constant light source may annoy those who live in studio apartments, however.

Best ultrasonic pest repeller

Target pest: Flying insects, vermin | Best use: Indoor | Power source: Plug-in

These $6 egg-shaped devices repel pests using ultrasonic waves that are imperceptible to humans. Strategist contributing writer Sophie Katzman bought some as a last resort when her rental was plagued by mice and mosquitoes, and she has since been living in peace. While at first the repellers actually lure more curious pests (especially flying insects) into the home, they’re quickly forced to move on. “Once the vermin feel the repellent, they are bothered and nudged to find a new hangout spot,” Katzman explains. “Within a week or so, I saw fewer pests. After three to four weeks maximum, I saw barely any at all, and after having them plugged in for six months, they’ve stayed away.” Like the fly trap above, these emit a blue light that may annoy some, but it can be switched off if preferred.

Our experts

• Sam Daly, deals editor, the Strategist
• Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program
• Sophie Katzman, contributing writer, the Strategist
• Lauren Ro, writer, the Strategist
• Alex Wild, curator of entomology for the University of Texas at Austin’s biodiversity collections

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The 6 Best Bug Zappers, Repellers, and Traps