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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about electric bug zappers. Ninety years ago, the first patent was given for an “insect electrocutor.” Descendents of this gadget are used today in suburban backyards -- with dubious results.


(Buzzing) CURWOOD: Take two electrically-charged wires, add one insect to complete the circuit, and...

(Bzzzzt! Fade to music up and under)

CURWOOD: Ninety years ago, a patent was issued for the first electric insect destroyer. We know it better today as the bug zapper. Early versions of the device were used on farms to rid the barnyards and back porches of flying pests. Now the familiar zap is heard at barbecues and pool parties. One entomologist estimates that in one year, four million bug zappers zapping for 40 summer nights electrocute 71 billion insects. Most of the critters executed are actually benign or beneficial bugs. There's some evidence, in fact, that zappers don't cut down on nasty stinging or biting insects, and may even attract bugs to the area. So, putting up bat boxes and bird houses may be more efficient and certainly a kinder, gentler way to discourage insect pests. After all, each time a bug is annihilated, it showers body parts and microorganisms out into the evening air. Ponder that the next time you hear a zap. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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