Who doesn’t love lounging around on 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 much time outdoors anymore because of pesky bugs flying around your head and buzzing in your ear. So it’s good that there is now a solution for that.
Bugs are generally attracted to light.
They are somehow drawn to anything bright and glowing. But, so far, there has been no discovery of a light that repels bugs altogether.
However, lights or light colors do not attract so much. A few examples are LED fairy lights, 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 many flying pests, so you can enjoy the space and make the most out of your patio experience the way it was meant to be enjoyed. You must 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.
Table of Contents
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 ensure that it won’t hinder people’s everyday movement wherever you put them.
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 more than seven feet and be angled towards the walkway or the floor.
Types of lights
Incandescent bulbs are outdated even to be considered, but we still want to include them here. 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 that gives the bulb its glow. This kind of light bulb emits primarily infrared light and attracts insects. Entomologists use it to capture insects for experimental purposes.
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
Compared to incandescent bulbs, CFLs are more efficient in energy consumption. Mercury is used for the 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, it is also not commonly used anymore because of its mercury content, making it a hazardous waste when disposed of.
Light-Emitting Diode Lamps
LED lights are the new trend today. Powered by electricity and consisting of semiconductors, these kinds of light bulbs are generally more energy-efficient, long-lasting, and less expensive. In addition, there is a wide range of light wavelengths that LED lights can 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 we mentioned.
But researchers noticed that emissions of short wavelengths attract more flies than those with long wavelengths. For example, white LEDs are less likely to attract bugs. But blue and green colors, which have shorter wavelengths, tend to be more attractive to bugs than yellow and orange hues.
Here is a chronological list of the color spectrum of light wavelengths starting from the shortest to the longest:
- Ultraviolet – invisible
- Infrared – invisible
While most insects are drawn to shorter wavelengths, mosquitoes are the exemption. Instead, 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 solid affinity for it. Phototaxis is a term used to define a particular organism’s reaction or bodily response to light. An organism has a positive phototaxis if drawn toward the light and a negative phototaxis if repelled by it.
Moths are the perfect example of insects with positive phototaxis. They are naturally drawn to open flames and incandescent lights like beetles, earwigs, and stink bugs. But you should watch out for 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. First, they studied the affinity of Anopheles mosquitoes to different light wavelengths. This particular genus of mosquitoes is the number one carrier of deadly malaria. Then, they compared the attraction of mosquitoes to blue lights, green lights, and incandescent lights as a 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 because they also feed on blood and are carriers of diseases transmitted via blood. Under the Diptera family are sandflies, black flies, tsetse flies, and midges.
These 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 to attract these flies.
The different kinds of patio lights
The great thing about patio lights is that you can choose from many different styles and designs according to your 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 a yellow to the 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 feel on 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 excellent if you do not want an overwhelming amount of light in the area but just enough to provide a little 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 area 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 as they do around bigger lamps. Make sure that the lights are LED.
Rope lights are almost similar to string lights in 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 a 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. Unfortunately, these kinds radiate heat and are less energy-efficient than 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 various colors. Still, we recommend warm colors to reduce bug attraction. In addition, the wires of rope lights are bendable, so you can use them to accent a wall or a column on your patio.
LED Lantern Lights
When it comes to large decorative lights, lanterns are also popular. In this case, the primary 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 and may also attract moths and other bugs 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. Some LED lanterns 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 to last throughout the 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 a 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 the fragile design that makes them vulnerable to environmental conditions; 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, a far cry from the 25,000-hour lifespan of LEDs.
They are much safer in an area without being hit by direct sunlight or getting wet from the rain. However, 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.
Edison bulbs may be good for you if you like to go old school. The conventional light bulb shape glass contains an LED bulb that can be in a 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 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 that is more efficient in energy consumption than the previous incandescent bulbs. The average lifespan can reach 15,000 hours, and light distribution is good.
Edison bulbs have that vintage feel, 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 with your backyard or patio. These are usually sturdy lamps that can survive changes in environmental conditions like rain and strong winds. The wires are also reliable, and the bulbs are of plastic material, not fragile like glass.
Yellow Bug Lights
These are just light bulbs with an intense yellow tint. Don’t let the name fool you. Manufacturers have claimed that these lights do not have any significant repellent action against bugs. A more accurate explanation would 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. They like to hang out on people’s patios and porches in the evening, ruining the atmosphere of a peaceful night out. They have this forceps-like structure that grabs your hand and releases a foul odor when you crush them.
Bottomline, yellow bug lights won’t reduce 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 using 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 built-in thermal insulation to maximize their efficiency and lifespan. The problem is that the disposal is a definite hazard. But it won’t be long before these lamps are replaced with LEDs.
On the other hand, Halogen lamps are a kind of incandescent light commonly used for creative purposes, so they typically emit a strong white glow. This 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 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 will not be able to do this alone. Envision the perfect look you want to have for your patio. Do you want all the light to be concentrated in one 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. First, you must form those two letters with the lights across the space. Then, 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. Finally, the parallel pattern is the easiest one because you’ll 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 toward the UV lights with longer wavelengths than short wavelengths. However, when it comes to yellow hues, affinity varies on the mosquito species. For example, 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 contribute to determining the level of attraction that common bugs have towards a light source. Bright lights are attractive to biting bugs. 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 to draw more insects towards them than blue tints.
Insects do not perceive color the same way that humans do. It is still unclear how they see the light, but it’s safe to say that it’s not even remotely similar to human perception and cognition. For example, a study discovered that Anopheles mosquitoes are more drawn to blue LED light than green LED light at the same intensity. Still, when the intensity was changed, the mosquitoes shifted their attention toward the green light.
So when picking patio lights, color should not be your only consideration but the intensity. Also, include the frequency of flickering. There is a certain limit on 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, making studying their response a very complex process. For example, 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 immune to flies because the heat they give off can still attract the insects. Meanwhile, white LED lights do not emit UV light, only small infrared rays, but have trace amounts of blue light. The cooler the glow, the more blue light it contains. Warm lights mainly
Back in 2016, an ecologist named Michael Justice experimented by 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 than the light’s quality. 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 to 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
LED is the most preferred type of light today 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 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 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 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 researched 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 pretty 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 you should also keep in mind when it comes to outdoor lighting and reducing insect attraction. Higher brightness and heat emission makes the 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 why those types aren’t used as much today anymore. Instead, the common yellow bug lights are CFL types that 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 of whether it is a warm or cool color, only attracted half the number of insects attracted by CFLs. In addition, LED lights to emit little to no UV radiation and are almost free from heat emission, making them fantastic 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, others will still follow, and it will invite larger bugs who will likely prey on the little ones.
The best option to 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 the 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 high, bugs will still notice it. Comparing incandescent with CFL, the latter gives off less heat. But we still want to emphasize LED lights’ supremacy in outdoor lighting.
If you’re considering putting bug zappers on your patio, you have to know that these are primarily intended to attract flies and 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. Good insects like bees, moths, or butterflies are not spared. These devices emit UV light, 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 them 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 remember 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 it will bring. Keep them at a safe distance from your doors and windows.
To wrap it up, yellow and warm kinds of white LED lights are the most optimal for outdoor and patio lighting. Fairy or string lights are great choices because they do not give off that much luminosity but are still enough to illuminate an ample space, especially with their comprehensive coverage.
These particular string lights are our personal favorite, and we would strongly recommend them to you. In addition, you can adjust the brightness of the lights, which 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 irritate 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. So LED is always better if you have problems with these insects.
Which is better, a zapper or a bug light?
Zappers intentionally attract bugs with their UV light to kill them. So you will suffer the incessant swarming of bugs towards the zapper and them flying around the area. So if you want to put up a bug zapper 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 whenever a bug gets caught up in it.
Also, the fact that they are not selective with the insects they eradicate is 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.