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Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Light?

does light attract mosquitoes

We all love to spend relaxing evenings out on the patio. That said, outdoor lighting can attract unwelcome visitors. Don’t let flying insects, especially mosquitoes, ruin your night.

One question we often hear from homeowners is: are mosquitoes attracted to light? Let’s review several recent scientific studies to help determine what changes homeowners can make to outdoor lighting to make your porch less attractive to flying creatures.

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Light?

Many flying insects, including moths, mosquitoes, and many flies, find the glow of artificial lights irresistible. So, the answer to our initial question is yes; what we can see on our porches and patios are indeed insects attracted to light or heat. The scientific term for the attraction bugs have to light is phototaxis.

Positive phototaxis describes the behavior of insects like moths that are drawn to light sources, while negative phototaxis describes the opposite, when insects such as cockroaches run away from light.

According to IFLScience, there are a number of theories why insects fly towards a light. One theory suggests that artificial lights interfere with an insect’s navigation, and they get confused. Another theory is that light presents an obstacle-free route for flight – although sometimes, bugs careen right into a light bulb, often getting burned in the process. Two other theories suggest that insects might be attracted to light because it mimics the UV light reflected in flowers (representing food) or they confuse the light for female moth pheromones.

Science tells us that, for various reasons, bugs do indeed prefer light. Now, let’s get to the real question on our minds: what color light attracts mosquitoes and other flying insects? Scientists have determined that most insects prefer UV light (in the bluer, cooler spectrum) over infrared or other longer wavelength light sources (reds and yellows). This is useful to keep in mind when considering which light bulbs are best to use outdoors. It also explains why bug zappers are always violet-blue in color.

Which Bulbs Attract the Most Insects?

There are so many different kinds of bulbs on the market these days, and many are bug magnets.

The light bulbs that attract the most insects are compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, which emit violet wavelengths that the bugs love. Flying critters also adore regular incandescent bulbs. And yes, regular, blue LEDs (the kind that is most like daylight to our eyes) also attract a fair number of insects.

Do Insects Avoid LED Lights?

Recent news suggests that LED bulbs are the best for outdoor lighting. Is this true?

Yes and no. Many bugs navigate by light and will be attracted to any light they can see, even far into the infrared spectrum. Others are attracted to heat.

So in theory, there are no light bulbs on the market today for residential lighting that will not attract any bugs.  

As noted in The New York Times, older blue LED bulbs are especially attractive to the most annoying insects (including mosquitoes and the kissing bugs that transmit Chagas disease). Original LED bulbs were made by coating a blue diode with a phosphor coating, so they emitted nearly as much UV spectrum light as a fluorescent bulb.

A case in point: a writer for Lux Review (a lighting website) tested LEDs for himself. He noted that gnats, moths, and flies were more than happy to hang around his LED lights. Furthermore, he suggests that with the lower heat levels of LED bulbs than other bulbs, these insects aren’t as likely to get burned, so they will keep coming back.

However, newer LED lights emit much less light within the UV spectrum than incandescent or CFL bulbs. These lights also are much cooler to the touch than other types of bulbs, further reducing their attractiveness to bugs.

What’s the Ideal Bulb for Outdoor Lighting?

If you want to select a specific type of light bulb that is less attractive to insects, choose a warmer color temperature bulb.

Because bug lights still outperform normal LED lights, the best option would be a LED bug light. These light bulbs reduce the UV or blue light and will attract 20% fewer insects than the regular LED bulbs.

Because LEDs are cooler than incandescent bulbs, yellow LED lights will also attract fewer insects overall than incandescent or other bug lights.

Here are three LED bug light bulbs to consider:

Are Flying Insects Bugging You?

Throughout the year, ABC Home & Commercial Services is the authority on safe and effective pest control. If you need a hand managing your flying pests, or would like assistance in installing new outdoor lighting around your home, contact us for a free estimate.

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