Correction: LED Lights Do Attract Bugs.

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By Will - August 17th, 2011

Or: We got this one wrong.

Back in 2009, we got excited when we heard that LED lights didn’t attract bugs. We do love LEDs for a variety of reasons already -- long, long life; low, low energy consumption; and good, high quality light. (Also, the cool factor.) The thought that they might also keep the bugs away seemed too good to be true until we saw some credible sources explaining that LED lights emit very little light in the UV spectrum, and that it’s UV light that attracts bugs.

Lo and behold, the thesis has not passed the test of time. It is true that most LED lights do not produce a significant amount of UV light. But, while the spectrum of light produced by LEDs can vary from light to light, it turns out that most do produce a significant amount of blue light. 

Blue light, it turns out, also attracts bugs. I emailed Andrei Alyokhin, an entomology professor at the University of Maine, asking if he could “shed some light” on the matter. He responded:

“Insects are mostly attracted to UV light and blue light. They cannot really see red light. Warmth plays a minor, if any, role. So, insect attraction will depend on the wavelength of the LED light used by the homeowners.”

We then found a nice graph from the Microscopy Resource Center illustrating the wavelengths emitted by various light sources. Here’s what it looks like:

light spectrum of various light sources

… Confirming that, yes, white LEDs produce a significant amount of blue light, which also attracts bugs -- explaining why, as some commenters on the previous post noticed, most LEDs are not immune to molestation by members of the insect community.

This past weekend we tested the theory in the real world -- specifically, outside a cabin in Northern Maine, where the bugs are a-plenty -- using a Pharox 6 Watt LED bulb (this bulb is intended to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb, although it only produces 360 lumens -- less than half of what a 60 watt incandescent would produce) and a GE Reveal 10w, 400 lumen CFL (just a slightly higher output than the LED, it’s marketed as a 40w replacement). We placed the two bulbs in fixtures on either side of an exterior door. Lo and behold, both, sadly, did attract bugs.

Again, we apologize for propagating what has proven to be a myth, and apologize if our previous post has caused any confusion or inconvenience for you, our beloved readers.


Comments

The low voltage /low wattage, white and blue landscape LEDs did not seem to attract any flying insects. but I didnt try higher wattage bulbs. Is it possible LEDs attract less or only certain types? Same as CFLs? LED urban legend Posted by Rob Huston on Feb 22, 2012 1:49am
Looks like I'm gonna have to do some more research but this is a pretty good spring board. Posted by Ava on Aug 6, 2012 12:48pm
LED's are not very good at full spectrum as compared to a common tungsten bulb. Each maker of led's try to offset their products in some way to more closely match the common bulb. I'd think that the yellow covering on a major name brand may work to both limit blue and soften the color. I use a cfl bug light and can say for sure it does seem to do quite well at limiting bugs. Posted by Anonymous on Mar 20, 2012 6:04pm
Thank you for this correction. I've seen so much controversy on this topic that I didn't really know what was the truth. Since you published this correction I did come across a couple of LEDs that are being advertised as bug repellent lights that I thought I'd share with your readers: MiracleLED 605023 LED Light Bulb, Yellow available from Amazon, Sears and a number of other stores and Infinity LED Ultra Bug Light with 38 Powerful LEDs available through Overstock.com. Posted by Mike S on Mar 24, 2012 9:09pm
I installed two LG 60watt equivalent LED bulbs in my garage side lights last night and noticed that while the traditional bulb at the back door of the garage was attracting numerous bugs, the LED bulbs were not. So may I got lucky with the right LEDs Posted by Anonymous on Jul 31, 2012 7:26am
With the sole intention of reducing the attraction for insects, we eeplaced two standard incandescent outside flood light bulbs in one fixture over the back door with two 7.5 watt LED bulbs Performance LED bulbs by FEIT ELECTRIC (intended to replace 40 watt incandescent). They produced much more light, but attracted so many more bugs that the back wall of the aluminum sided house was a solid moving carpet of bugs. In twenty years we have never seen so many bugs. While impressed that the lights were brighter than the replaced 75 watt bulbs, we no longer use them outdoors. Posted by Anonymous on Aug 8, 2012 6:45am
Choose Warm White for Less Bugs, indoors and out.You may lose some lumen output but wont attract as many bugs and flying insects Posted by rob e dang on Aug 8, 2012 12:36pm
So, what is the solution to prevent Bugs from being attracted to light. We have an office fruit fly problem. Production area just outside our door is a Waste Managemernt Facility Posted by Jim on Aug 31, 2012 11:53am
Fruit fly solution.. I use it annually.. a glass of you choice... it can be decorative a jar if you have one... 1/2 C apple cider vinegar 1/2 tsp honey 2 drops of sunlight cover top of jar with saran wrap tightly.... secure it with an elastic band carefully poke holes into the saran wrap they do not have to be huge.. just enough to fit a FF Good Luck leave it close to the source of attraction.. and for fruit flies.. it isnt light.. but sweet smells of decaying fruit Posted by sherri on Oct 4, 2012 9:25pm
I had ordered a few LED flexible strip lights from ebay.. to see what color was best for my home.. leaving them on at night so see with in the kitchen.. I noticed the moths.. around the cold white light and the warm white had nothing... so to me that makes me think I can control where the bugs gather.. so I will put the bug attracting color across the driveway away from the front door.. Posted by sherri on Oct 4, 2012 9:20pm
Is this true of mosquitoes? Not all bugs are the same Posted by Anonymous on Dec 18, 2012 9:15am

What about Soft white LED bulbs? Can I use it outside without bugs flying around it and dying in it? Can I use it in the kitchen without having moths and other bugs fly in front of the windows?

Posted by Lamp on Jan 14, 2013 6:29pm

You saw more bugs, (Carpet of Moving Bugs" because you had more light. Use a warmer Kelvin color temp. Go with an 8275 or 830.

Posted by Anonymous on Jun 26, 2013 9:08am

The standard Pharox 300 lamp will certainly attract bugs. The lamp to test is a Pharox "Flame" 300 lamp.

White LED lamps are usually made from a blue LED with a phosphor cap that converts some of the blue to longer wavelengths. Bugs are attracted to shorter, more high-energy wavelengths, so to avoid bugs you want an a LED lamp with a really thick phosphor that emits very little blue/violet and produces a lot more orange/red.

The Pharox Flame (which might not still be manufactured) is the only available 2200K LED lamp I'm aware of. It puts out yellow/gold light with very little blue. It was created for accent and ambient lighting (to replace yellowish 25-watt incandescent lamps in places like restaurants). But it is also an excellent bug light.

Since Pharox seems to have flamed out, hopefully a manufacturer will pick up the slack and start offering very warm white <2700K LED lamps.

Posted by Satyen on Aug 24, 2013 8:20pm

We have been moving all our house lights to LED for about 2 years and did notice that the softer LED lights on the porch seem to attract fewer mosquitoes. We live in the country in Mid Missouri. Bug central in the summer. Did nothing to deter the June bugs, but they don't bite so I don't care. Our main reason for using LED is to not give the eletric company as big a bite of our paycheck.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec 24, 2013 3:20pm

White light is a mixture of red, green and blue. There is no other way to get perfectly white light, so a white LED will always put out some light in the blue-purple end of the spectrum. Your basic premise is correct, however. There are LEDs capable of emitting entirely in the yellow portion of the spectrum, and these SHOULD make excellent bug lights because (as you correctly stated) they are practically monochromatic. I really wish CREE or one of the other major players would catch on and produce these in standard bases and for standard 60 cycle 110AC in some useful power range. All I've seen are too weak to really be of any practical use for lighting a patio or stairs.

Posted by RJOgden on Jan 11, 2014 9:17pm

We have been transferring almost all our house lighting to help DIRECTED for approximately a couple of years in addition to does recognize that your smoother DIRECTED lighting on the deck appear to bring in a lesser number of mosquitoes. We reside in the country Digital card setup throughout Core Missouri. Irritate main inside summer months. Do almost nothing to help stop your August pesky insects, however they will not bite so i will not health care. Each of our major reason pertaining to making use of DIRECTED would be to certainly not provide eletric corporation seeing that big a bite your income.

Posted by Digital card setup on May 13, 2014 5:26am

I work at night in a open parking garage.
Each of the 4 floors has 15 or so 175-Watt quartz metal halide HID light bulbs. these attract LOTS of insects.
The city has begun to replace dead HID bulbs (which only last little more than a single year burning all night long)
With it's LED equivalent 20 Watt. They are rated for 20 years part # LED-8039E57K

To my eyes they seem more "Blue" and a bit dimmer than the HID Metal Halide bulbs, but you can tell just by looking which is LED by the fact that very few insects are attracted to them. The "Normal bulbs" which dim significantly over the course of a year always attract great numbers of insects.

Posted by Liverwort on May 27, 2014 9:19pm

Use 3 CFL bug lites in front of house.
About 10 months ago, I bought n motion detector with two very bright LED lights from COSTCO for the side door. Used a can of yellow spray paint on the bulbs (two coats). Puts out a yellow light, dimmer than the bright white original.
The light is usually off except when the door is opened or motion is detected, but I haven't noticed bugs being attracted to it so far. Then again, I don't have it on overnight so not sure if the coating is working.
Why can't bulb industry come out with an LED in a regular bulb shape with yellow glass that puts out a few hundred lumens?

Posted by Pete C on Jun 28, 2014 9:51pm

I'm using MiracLED bug lights which are 2 watts and a yellowishish color, <2700K I believe. They provide a nice warm glow along the walking path alongside the house, and while they do attract some bugs as evidences by spiderwebs that set up inside the can fixtures, they're no bad.

I keep wishing they'd make a California Title 22-compliant version.

Posted by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2014 11:27am

Alas, I must disagree. In fact, I have done many experiments here in Upstate NY on hot muggy nights, and my LED outside bulbs have kept moths and other bugs at bay, big time. I even left the front porch light on, (LED) for four hours, after which with an incandescent bulb I would have been fighting off moths with a fireplace poker, and there were NO BUGS. One or two, who looked lost and would fly away. I am a firm believer in LED bulbs, and my house has really been bug free since I converted. NO one pays me to say this: I say this from experience.

Posted by carol on Aug 7, 2014 8:08pm

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