Do LED Lights Attract Bugs?
Bug lights are essential to a peaceful year of outdoor night-time events. They ensure that, whether you’re in the yard or on the porch, you aren’t being swarmed by moths and other insects. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of misinformation about bug lights and how they work. Most recent is the dispute over whether or not LED light bulbs are capable of repelling bugs from your porch, just by virtue of being LED lights. Many users and manufacturers say they can, and many say they can’t. So let’s take a look at why both sides are right, and how insects relate to LED light bulbs.
No bug light actually repels bugs. Since many bugs navigate by light sources like the moon or sun, they’re attracted to light they can see. A bug light works by emitting light that is invisible to bugs and insects, or by being too dim for the bugs to notice the light. If no bugs come to hang out, the end effect is similar to a bug repellent. We have a much more in-depth write up on how bug lights work, but what’s important to remember is that most insects do not see light around the 650 nm (yellow) range. UV light and the infrared spectrum are used by insects for navigation and locating food. Since different insects see different wavelengths of light, and many insects are attracted to heat, bug lights are never 100% effective (the heat output of an incandescent bug light can attract insects), but they are very good at reducing the number of bugs by excluding the light used by the majority.
So, why do some people claim that LEDs repel bugs and insects? For the same reason that bug lights do not attract insects. LED lights, specifically the bulbs typically used in residential lighting, emit very little light in the UV spectrum. LEDs also emit little heat from their light source, further reducing their attractiveness to bugs. But, it isn’t just UV that bugs are attracted to. Many types of insect see equally well in the blue-range (shorter than 500 nm) of the light spectrum. As you can see from the chart, typical LED bulbs light up quite nicely in that range, because it’s the range of “daylight” that we can see and enjoy. So, while an LED light bulb should attract fewer insects than a typical incandescent light, it can still attract quite a few bugs. Buying a warmer color temperature (which is what you should use for landscape lighting anyway) will also help, since a 2700K bulb contains less of the blue wavelength of light than a 3500K LED bulb would.
However, using an LED light bulb is still not as good as using an actual bug light. LED bug lights are different from LED light bulbs (they’re simple to identify since they will both say “bug light” and typically feature a yellow color to the bulb, similar to incandescent bug lights. However, LEDs work far better than incandescent bug lights because if two bulbs are emitting the same wavelength of light, then the bulb with the lower heat emission will attract fewer bugs.
As a quick summary:
To make a long story short, LED light bulbs are not invisible to bugs any more than any other light. They are harder to see for some insects (which means the area you live in may be relatively free of susceptible bugs), but you are still better off buying an actual bug light, whether incandescent or LED. One way to counteract bugs is to install bug lights in the areas where you will be most active, and standard lights further out (drawing bugs away from activity hot-spots). Have any extra questions, or maybe you’d like to share some anti-bug tips for the coming seasons? Share in the comments below or contact us through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.
Header image is courtesy of AZ Barkmans.