Bug zappers might do more harm than good

Washington (AP) Spring has arrived and daylight savings time is here, so can the mosquitos be far behind? For many Americans, it's time to get out the electric bug zapper.

The continuous snap, crackle & pop coming from a zapper on a summer evening has convinced many homeowners the traps are effective in ridding porches and patios of marauding mosquitos and no-see-ums.

But wait, say some scientists who study insects. Too often, they believe, bug zappers not only are ineffective against biting bugs, but do more harm than good.

For instance, a study by the University of Delaware at Newark analyzed 13,789 insects zapped by electric traps and found only 31 - less than one-fourth of 1 percent - were biting bugs "seeking blood meals at the expense of homeowners."

Nearly half were non-biting aquatic insects such as caddis flies and midges that feed fish, frogs, birds and bats, the study found. And another 14 percent were insects that actually attack pests, such as wasps, ground beetles and ladybugs.

"The heavy toll on nontarget insects and the near absence of biting flies in catches suggest that electric insect traps are worthless for biting fly reduction," concluded Douglas W. Tallamy and Timothy B. Frick, who conducted the study.

Tallamy, an entomologist, said insects have been described as the glue of the ecosystem.

"They are such an important component of the food chain that, if removed, the ecosystem would fall apart," he said. "If you remove the source of food for birds and fish, you don't have birds and fish anymore. A number of mammals also depend on insects."

Sal DeYoreo, president of Flowtron Outdoor Products, a manufacturer of electric traps in Melrose, Mass., disputed the Delaware study.

The Delaware study estimated that about 1 million zappers are sold in the United States each year. The traps used in the project had been operating for an average of seven years.

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