Who doesn’t love lounging around in the patio of your own home and watching the sky shift colors as the sun sets? Because we sure do! But there is one nuisance that seems to ruin the atmosphere.
No one wants to spend a lot of time outdoors anymore because of pesky bugs flying around your head and buzzing in your ear. It’s a good thing that there is now a solution for that.
Bugs are generally attracted to light.
They are somehow drawn to anything that is bright and glowing. So far, there has been no discovery so far of a light that repels bugs altogether.
However, there are lights or light colors that do not attract so much. A few examples are LED fairy lights, LED lanterns, yellow compact fluorescent lights, Edison lamps, rope lights, yellow bug lights, and halogen bulb lights with yellow tints.
Your patio needs good lighting that does not attract too much flying pests so you can really enjoy the space and make the most out of your patio experience the way it was truly meant to be enjoyed. It’s important that you know the difference between the types of lights that we mentioned before especially if you do not like spraying insect repellant sprays all the time.
Without further delay, this post will give you the relevant information that you need about patio lights.
Best place for patio lights
Before anything else, we also would like to share some tips about the optimal locations for patio lights. Of course, you would not want to put more lights in an already well-lit area. These lights best serve their purpose in dim and dark areas.
You also want to make sure that wherever you put them, it won’t be a hindrance to the normal movement of people.
The spot where you will put your lights will also help you decide the wattage of the bulb or in other words, how bright you want the lights to be.
You want the lights to not be at eye level so the glow won’t hit directly into people’s eyes. It’s irritating and not to mention damaging to the sight.
Something we’d like for you to remember: place lights with low voltage less than two feet from the floor. The ones with standard voltage should be put up at a height of more than seven feet and should be angled towards the walkway or towards the floor.
Types of lights
Incandescent bulbs are too outdated to even be considered but we still want to include it here anyway. The energy consumption of incandescent bulbs isn’t efficient at all, that’s why a lot of countries have stopped using it. Light is produced by heating a thin wire filament and that gives the bulb its glow. This kind of light bulb emits mostly infrared light and it does attract insects. In fact, entomologists use it to capture insects for experimental purposes.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
Compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs are definitely more efficient in terms of energy consumption. Mercury is used for UV light mechanism and then transformed by a fluorescent phosphor coat into a visible light frequency spectrum. The quality of the glow is directly related to the quality of the light itself. Though this kind may be less attractive to flies, this is also not commonly used anymore because of its mercury content which makes it a hazardous waste when disposed of.
Light-Emitting Diode Lamps
LED lights are the new trend today. Powered by electricity and consists of semiconductors, these kinds of light bulbs are generally more energy-efficient, long-lasting, and less expensive. There is a wide range of light wavelengths that LED lights are able to give off.
Do LED lights attract bugs?
It’s still unclear whether LEDs are more or less attractive to bugs compared to the previous two kinds that we have mentioned.
But researchers noticed that emissions of short wavelengths attract more flies than those with long wavelengths. White LEDs are less likely to attract bugs. But blue and green colors, which have shorter wavelengths, tend to be more attractive to bugs compared to yellow and orange hues.
Here is a chronological list of the color spectrum of light wavelengths starting from the shortest to longest:
- Ultraviolet – invisible
- Infrared – invisible
While most insects are drawn to shorter wavelengths, mosquitoes are the exemption. These predatory hunters rely on infrared light to find food.
More about wavelength later in this article.
Insects that love the light
Most crawling insects are afraid of the light like cockroaches and some worms. However, the winged ones have a strong affinity to it. Phototaxis is a term used to define the reaction or bodily response of a certain organism to light. An organism has a positive phototaxis if they are drawn towards light and a negative phototaxis if they are repelled by it.
Moths are the perfect example of insects with positive phototaxis. They are naturally drawn to open flames and incandescent lights similar to beetles, earwigs, and stink bugs. But the ones you should definitely watch out for are mosquitoes and other insects that are potential disease carriers.
According to a study dated back in 2017 by a group of biologists from Brazil, green lights are the most attractive to mosquitoes. They studied the affinity of Anopheles mosquitoes to different light wavelengths. This particular genus of mosquito is the number one carrier of the deadly malaria disease. They compared the attraction of mosquitoes to blue lights, green lights, and incandescent lights as negative control. Out of the variables, the green light attracted the highest number of insects, followed by the blue lights, and lastly, the incandescent light had the lowest number of attracted mosquitoes.
Based on their discovery, we can conclude that blue and green lights should not be used as patio lights if you do not want a swarm of disease-carrying mosquitoes hanging around.
Biting Flies (Diptera)
Biting flies resemble the lifestyle of mosquitoes in a way that they also feed on blood and are carriers of diseases that are transmitted via blood. Under the Diptera family are sandflies, black flies, tsetse flies, and midges.
These types of flies showed activity with UV light and wavelengths of blue and green. According to further research, their attraction also varied at certain times during the day and might be attributed to the insects’ circadian rhythm or their body clock. Still, it boils down to the fact that blue, green, and UV lights should not be used to lessen the tendency of attracting these flies.
The different kinds of patio lights
The great thing about patio lights is that you can choose from a lot of different styles and designs according to your personal taste. They come in the form of lanterns, Edison style, caged, color, string, globe, and even rattan-wrapped lights. They have a variety of color spectrums. They’re all ideal for patio use and even for decorative purposes for special events. We strongly recommend LED bulbs with yellow to white color range to minimize the swarming of bugs.
Fairy String Lights
Like Christmas lights, these strings of little lights are perfect if you’re going for a lowkey, starry kind of feel in your patio. Others opt to hang them on trees but they also go well on the wall or the railings of your balcony. These cute lights are nice if you do not want an overwhelming amount of light in the area but just enough to provide a little bit of brightness while still preserving the beauty of the night. A study from Pakistan revealed that 70% of flies and bugs tend to be more drawn to cool temperature lights but only 8-10% percent are drawn to lights of warm colors.
Fairy lights have a lot of color variants. They also do not emit such an intense glow. Warm colors like yellow or white are the best ones. Even with the low-intensity brightness, it compensates for the amount of area that it can cover depending on the length of the string. There is an even distribution of subtle lighting throughout the area compared to other lights that are only concentrated on a particular part of the room. You can trust that flies won’t swarm around the bulbs the way that they do around bigger lamps. Make sure that the lights are LED.
Rope lights are almost similar to string lights in the sense that the small light bulbs are also attached to a long chain and do not give off an intense light. However, the bulbs are enclosed in some kind of plastic tube or a rope that protects them from getting moist or getting direct heat. But not all rope lights are LED. There are cheap ones that use incandescent bulbs with wires wrapped in rope. These kinds radiate heat and they’re not energy-efficient compared to LED type bulbs. What’s worse, they also attract flies.
LED is the best choice when you want to go for rope lights. Even though it costs more, they are safer and consume less power. Just like fairy lights, you can also choose from a variety of colors. Still, we recommend warm colors to reduce bug attraction. The wires of rope lights are bendable so you can use them to accent a wall or a column in your patio.
LED Lantern Lights
When it comes to large decorative lights, lanterns are also a popular choice. In this case, the main light source is enclosed inside a colored piece of paper and formed into a round shape to be hung from above. Primarily intended for outdoor decor use, lanterns emit brighter lights. Other lanterns can even hold candles inside instead of light bulbs but we would not recommend this because it has an unsafe side to it and may also attract moths and other bugs that are drawn to flames. Also it’s best to avoid the cool white colors because they are attractive to bugs.
Versatility is also a key feature. There are some LED lanterns that are rechargeable via electricity or solar and are also portable, enabling you to take them for trips and outdoor activities like camping. Exposing the lanterns to direct sunlight for a couple of hours will recharge their batteries long enough for them to last throughout the entire night. They also come in various designs and shapes that you are free to choose from to fit the aesthetic of your area.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
Experts have this existing hypothesis that insects cannot see yellow light. Their vision receptors can only sense UV, blue, and green light. Based on that theory, yellow light might be the most favorable color for CFLs.
The drawback with CFLs is their fragile design that makes them vulnerable to environmental conditions and therefore, they aren’t the optimal choice for outdoor use. When we talk about energy efficiency, cost, and lifespan, CFLs do not have much to offer. They only have an 8000-hour lifespan which is a far cry from the 25,000 hour lifespan of LEDs.
They are much safer in an area where they are not hit by direct sunlight or get wet from the rain. You may not be able to find a lot of these in the market because LEDs are getting more and more attention because of their practicality. Even if you opt for CFL, it would be a hassle to find a replacement bulb for it when it has reached the maximum length of its lifespan.
If you like to go old school, Edison bulbs may be good for you. The conventional light bulb shape glass contains an LED bulb that can be in warm white or yellowish-orange hue glow which isn’t that attractive to flies. Because of the larger size and LED technology used, this type definitely costs a bit more than the previous styles we listed.
Often referred to as LED filament lamps, the new versions of Edison bulbs have a visible LED filament which are more efficient in energy consumption compared to the previous incandescent bulbs used. The average lifespan can reach 15,000 hours and light distribution is good.
Edison bulbs have that vintage feel to them and the design is timeless. The intensity of the light is not as strong as a regular incandescent bulb but in this case, they still radiate some heat which could mean infrared-attracted flies are most likely to gather around. They can be decorative lamps that you can hang by a string along your backyard or your patio. These are usually sturdy lamps that are able to survive changes in environmental conditions like rain and strong winds. The wires are also reliable and the bulbs are of plastic material and not fragile like glass.
Yellow Bug Lights
These are basically just light bulbs with an intense yellow tint. Don’t let the name fool you. Manufacturers have claimed that these types of lights do not have any significant repellent action against bugs. A more accurate explanation would just be that these types of lights are less attractive to bugs than other types.
Earwig bugs may not be dangerous insects but they are still annoying to have around. They really like to hang out in people’s patios and porches in the evening, ruining the atmosphere of a peaceful night out. They have this forceps-like structure that grasp onto your hand and they also release foul odor when you crush them.
Bottomline, yellow bug lights won’t do much in reducing the number of mosquitoes that will gather around your patio because these insects almost do not see intense yellow lights. They see better in infrared wavelength lights to see their prey. Other people are irritated by the yellow tint of bug lights and if you’re one of those people, you don’t need to bother yourself much with these yellow bug lights because they’re almost ineffective.
Sodium vapor and halogen bulbs
Sodium vapor bulbs have low-pressure and high-pressure variants. It involves the use of a sodium metal and trace amounts of neon or argon gas to produce light. This is the kind that you often see in street lights. Light is produced when the sodium gas is vaporized using a discharge tube, creating a yellow tint. Low-pressure sodium bulbs have a built-in thermal insulation to maximize its efficiency and lifespan. The problem is that the disposal is a definite hazard. But it won’t be long before these kinds of lamps are replaced with LEDs.
Halogen lamps on the other hand, are a kind of incandescent light commonly used for creative purposes so they typically emit a strong white glow. This kind of tint is attractive to most insects and it can only be reduced if you cover it with yellow-tinted glass. While most halogen lamps are intended for indoor use, there are also ones that can be used outdoors if you ever opt for this kind of lamp for your patio. The difference is the protective casings that protect the lamp itself from environmental conditions.
Hanging your patio lights
Got your patio lights ready for installation? Now you might want to call up a friend or two to lend a helping hand because you are not going to be able to do this alone. Envision the ideal look you want to have for your patio. Do you want all the light to be concentrated in one particular area only or would you prefer to have them spread out evenly throughout the entire space? You can choose from the following styles:
The first two are pretty self-explanatory. You just have to form those two letters with the lights across the space. For the criss-cross pattern, simply just make a V pattern in one way and make another one back the opposite way to create cross patterns. The parallel pattern is the easiest one because you’ll simply just string them up in parallel positions from each other and the distance between the lines is entirely up to you.
The science behind lights and bugs
Mosquitoes have a higher affinity towards the UV lights with longer wavelengths rather than short wavelengths. However, when it comes to yellow hues, affinity varies on the species of the mosquito. Biting flies are not huge fans of visible light with long wavelengths but infrared light seems to attract sandflies.
Also the intensity of the light’s glow can be a contributing factor in determining the level of attraction that common bugs have towards a light source. Bright lights are attractive to biting bugs. Apparently, green LEDs have a higher luminosity than blue LEDs which may not be that noticeable to the naked eye but insects can distinguish between the two quite easily and that green LED lights draw more insects towards them compared to blue tints.
Insects do not perceive color the same way that humans do. It is still unclear as to how they see light but it’s safe to say that it’s not in any way even remotely similar to human perception and cognition. There is a study that discovered Anopheles mosquitoes being more drawn to blue LED light compared to green LED light at the same intensity but when the intensity was changed, the mosquitoes started to shift their attention towards the green light.
So when picking patio lights, color should not be your only consideration but the intensity as well. Also, include the frequency of flickering. There is a certain limit as to how much flickering our eyes can see and when it goes beyond that limit, we merely see a continuous streak of light. The same cannot be said for insects because they are more sensitive to flickering. Frequent flickering may be irritating to some insects.
Light has a broad spectrum of wavelengths and we perceive them as different colors. In the case of insects, they have a different eye structure and photoreceptors, and therefore process light in an entirely different way which makes studying their response a very complex process. Several flying insects respond positively to UV light, which led to the production of UV light bug zappers that emit blue to violet light. Though not intended to repel insects, yellow incandescent lamps are also advertised as an anti-insect type of light because it counteracts the presence of blue light. But it does not make them totally immune to flies because the heat that they give off can still attract the insects. Meanwhile, white LED lights do not emit UV light, only emit small infrared rays, but have trace amounts of blue light. The cooler the glow, the more blue light it contains. Warm lights mostly consist of yellow to orange wavelengths.
Back in 2016, an ecologist named Michael Justice conducted an experiment comparing different kinds of outdoor lights and their level of insect attraction to each of them. Below are his findings arranged from most to least attractive:
- Incandescent – most attractive
- Compact fluorescent light (CFL) – less attractive than incandescent
- Halogen – less attractive than CFL
- LED with a cool color temperature – less attractive than CFL
- LED with a warm color temperature – least attractive
In 2021, a similar study involving street lights was conducted but this time, it varied more on the species rather than the quality of the light. But UV light remained the most attractive to a lot of insect species.
Even with the same color temperatures, the lighting system also varied. LEDs were the least attractive to insects and the incandescent and CFLs gathered a lot. LED bulbs emit color temperature in varying degrees measured in Kelvin. LEDs with low Kelvin tend emit warmer, yellow tints while the high Kelvin LEDs emit blue and purple hues. Our suggestion is to use low wattage and low Kelvin LED lights.
Non-bug attracting patio lights
We’ve already established that certain types of lights can attract more bugs and flies. Here is the rundown on the criteria that you need to keep in mind:
- LED lights are your best option
- Go for yellow, warm white, or ultra warm white lights
- Avoid UV, incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), and halogen lights
The reason why LED is the most preferred type of light today is because of its low heat and UV light emission. As a result, it also has less tendency to attract bugs. UV lights usually emit cool colors, making flies drawn to them. But warmer colors are somehow irritating to flying insects and can keep them away. Also every other type of light has poor energy efficiency.
The Advantage of Yellow Bulbs
There is no surefire way to get rid of bugs altogether. The remedy one can do is to simply reduce the chances of attracting bugs to an area by adjusting the lighting that illuminates the space. Homeowners have to use light that is invisible to the bugs. Mature insects can distinguish up to three colors. Insects with two color receptors are called bichromatic and those with three color receptors are trichromatic. Insects of the latter can see a broader range of colors.
In the light spectrum, colors hit different wavelengths. And not all colors within that spectrum are visible to insects and even to humans.
Longer wavelengths are less visible and therefore less attractive to bugs. Yellow, red, and orange are the colors with long wavelengths based on the spectrum so basically these are the ones that insects will most likely not be able to see. Lighting brands and manufacturers have done their research on the light perception of insects and have come up with products made for outdoor use. In this case, yellow CFL can be a great choice. They are quite efficient when it comes to energy consumption and they also do not radiate that much heat.
Other Lighting Factors to Consider
Aside from the color, heat radiation and luminous intensity are two other factors that you should also keep in mind when it comes to outdoor lighting and reducing insect attraction. Higher brightness and heat emission makes a light more attractive to bugs. Halogen and incandescent bulbs may give off yellow tinted light but they also heat up and that warmth is home to bugs. That’s the reason why those types aren’t used as much today anymore. The common yellow bug lights are CFL type which produce less heat at a lower wattage.
Warm and cool white LEDs as alternatives
UV light is visible to insects and invisible to humans because of its short wavelength. An existing study conducted recently in the Ecology and Evolution journal stated that LED lights regardless if it is a warm or cool color, only attracted half the number of insects attracted by CFLs. LED lights emit little to no UV radiation and are almost free from heat emission as well which makes them great for outdoor lighting.
For LEDs, the lower Kelvin temperature means more yellow-tinted color. Around 3000 Kelvin will produce yellow tinted light. Cool colors like blue are produced at 6000 Kelvin and more. Nonetheless, there is still no assurance that no bugs will gather around even at an extremely low Kelvin. There is a probability that certain insects may still pick up on some lights that are usually invisible to them. If one bug can sense it, then others will still follow and it will invite larger bugs who will most likely prey on the little ones.
The best option you have to completely eliminate bugs from your patio is to use pest control treatments. Pest eradication services are available all over the United States. They do a thorough job of removing cobwebs, nests, and possible insect habitats from your home.
Factors to keep in mind for your patio lights
Aside from yellow, red, and orange colors of light, the intensity or brightness of the light also matters. Even if the color is warm but the brightness is really high, bugs will still take notice of it. Comparing incandescent with CFL, the latter gives off less heat. But we still want to emphasize the supremacy of LED lights for outdoor lighting.
If you’re thinking of putting bug zappers in your patio, you have to know that these are primarily intended to attract flies and then eliminate them. So if you spend a lot of time on your patio, this may not be the wisest choice. Also, bug zappers are nonselective so any kind of insect that comes close to it meets its end. The good insects like bees, moths, or butterflies are not spared. UV light is emitted by these devices and that is the kind that is attractive to most insects.
Since patio lights are placed outside and are more prone to exposure to changes in weather, you might want to consider heavy-duty string lights with extra protective casings to shield it from wind, rain, and direct sunlight. There are solar-powered ones that are great for areas with generally sunny weather.
We strongly discourage UV lights for outdoor use. Always keep in mind that warmer colors like yellow and orange are not that visible and attractive to most insects. No matter how great it would look aesthetically, having cooler colors on your patio is not worth the swarm of insects that it will bring. Keep them at a safe distance from your doors and windows.
To wrap it up, yellow and the warm kind of white LED lights are the most optimal when it comes to outdoor and patio lighting. Fairy lights or string lights are great choices because they do not give off that much luminosity but still enough to illuminate a large space especially with their wide coverage.
These particular string lights are our personal favorite and we would strongly recommend it to you. You can adjust the brightness of the lights and they are also specially designed for outdoor use.
What type of bugs are attracted to light?
Bugs with positive phototaxis or high affinity to light are moths, flies, beetles, stinkbugs, and earwigs, to name a few. These are just the common ones but other insects like mosquitoes and bees can still be drawn to certain types of light.
What are some disadvantages of bug lights?
The yellow tint given off by bug lights can be irritating to some people. And it’s not a guarantee that there won’t be bugs around if you use this type of light. They may not be attractive to moths and mosquitoes but some studies suggest that stinkbugs and earwigs are drawn to them. If you have problems with these insects, LED is always a better choice.
Which is better, a zapper or a bug light?
Zappers intentionally attract bugs with their UV light to kill them. So you will definitely suffer the incessant swarming of bugs towards the zapper and them flying around the area. If you want to put up a bug zapper in the outdoors, you should keep it away from where people usually hang out.
In a way, bug zappers are also beneficial in eliminating mosquitoes that can be potential disease carriers. However, it’s not a 100% guarantee since mosquitoes aren’t entirely attracted to the light emitted by zappers. They are more drawn to the heat rather than the light. Some zappers also tend to make annoying noises every time a bug gets caught up in it. Also, the fact that they are not selective with the insects that they eradicate is also a disadvantage because as mentioned before, the good kind of insects can also be drawn to them and get zapped. Some examples are bees, beetles, and moths.
You do not need a bug zapper to get rid of insects. You will only end up attracting a lot of them to your property. Your best option would be to have lights that are not attractive to insects like LED bug lights.