Mosquito Zapper





Introduction: Mosquito Zapper

Modify a bug zapper to enable it to attract and kill mosquitos in huge numbers. Photo shows catch from one evening! Zappers usually are not effective against mosquitos, even when chemical lures are used along with them. The effective mosquito killers use propane and are large and expensive. CAUTIONS: This project requires disassembly and reassembly of an electronic device, and that should only be done by someone experienced in electrical matters and done with extreme caution. The finished project will also need to be used with extreme caution in order to safeguard people, pets and wildlife. ADDED CAUTION: Some modern zappers store the zap voltage on a capacitor that is wired directly across the two zap screens. You can get a jolt from touching the screens even after the unit is unplugged. You can bleed off the capacitor charge after unplugging the unit by connecting the two grids together using a width of wet paper towel wrapped around a plastic rod, such as can be cut from a cheap plastic coat hanger.
To see my related Instructables, including "Deer Fly Traps," click on "unclesam" just below the title above or in the INFO box to the right. On the new page that appears, repeatedly click "NEXT" to see all of them.

Step 1: Disassemble Zapper

Any electronic bug zapper of any size will do. Zapper consists of two concentric cylinders made of coarse metal screen and fluroescent bulbs that attract some kinds of bugs. Mosquitos are attracted to warm-blooded mammals, however, and this project adds a sleeve of heavy black plastic to the outside of the inner zap screen. The bulbs heat the plastic sleeve, which attracts the mosquitos. Plastic sheet is an electrical insulator, but the machine will still zap with it in place.
Remove The protective plastic cage and remove the light bulbs. If these steps do not also remove the top electronic cover, leave it in place, no modifications to the electronics are necessary. Unsolder the wire that comes from out of the top of the unit and attaches to the top of the outer wire zap screen. Carefully remove the outer zap screen and any ceramic spacers. Cut heavy black plastic, such as 6 mil landscaping plastic, to a size and shape that will go around the inner zap screen once with a some overlap. Secure the plastic to the inner zap screen using an ordinary office stapler as far up as you can reach with it. If the top of the plastic needs securing, make a complete wrap of electrical tape around it, plus some overlap.

Step 2: Reassemble the Zapper

Reinstall the ceramic spacers and the outer zap screen, with the screen's former electrical connecion spot near the disconnected wire. Resolder the electrical wire to the outer zap screen. Make sure your zap screens are oriented straight and concentric with one another, then reinstall the bulbs. Put the outer protective plastic screen back on the machine, and the top cap if that was also removed. Plug in the zapper and make sure the bulbs light and that there is no electrical arcing yet within the machine. Do a zap test by securing a small wad of paper towel to the end of a WOODEN OR PLASTIC stick with a rubber band and moistening only the piece of towel. Poke the stick in through the first zap screen, and you should get a zap. Unplug the zapper and DON'T PLAY WITH IT.
Hang the zapper somewhere outdoors where it will not attract mosquitos to where people might gather, up where it cannot be reached by people or pets.

Step 3: Clean the Zapper

You may need to clean the dead mosquitos off the zapper as often as every morning. UNPLUG THE ZAPPER WHENEVER YOU DO THIS!!! You can remove the protective plastic cage and use a soft plastic brush. You may want to install thumbscrews to make the removal easier. I cut away some of the protective cage so I could just blow off the bugs using an electric leaf blower (ZAPPER UNPLUGGED!). Doing this makes the zapper more dangerous, which was not a problem in my situation. Cats, squirrels and people can more easily get shocked with the protection removed, however. It should be possible to snip out the plastic cage panels and use hinges and latches to keep the zapper more safe while still enabling it to be easily opened for cleaning. NEVER FORGET THAT THIS THING CAN KILL, AND DON'T DEPEND ON OTHERS TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS UNSAFE. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT THEY CANNOT GET INJURED. FOLLOW ALL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS INCLUDED WITH THE ZAPPER.



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    has anyone tried painting the bulbs with black paint rather than using the plastic? is there anreason i couldn't just tape black plastic sheeting directly to the bulbs?

    11 replies

    neofling, you will find discussion about painting the bulbs in some of the posted comments and replies, but so far I have heard of no one who tried it. If you do, I hope you will take photos and report your results here. I would use paint that can take high temperature, such as sold at auto parts stores for spray painting engine blocks. Also clean the bulbs first with alcohol. Taping plastic to the bulbs would probably attract the skeeters, but the bulbs do get hot. I would worry about the tape or plastic melting or catching fire. Also note in the comments that the smaller model bug zappers appear to be ineffective under any condition. U.S.

    Perhaps grill paint? Or engine paint ~400 deg.

    As stated , mosquitoes are attracted to Co2 not necessarily heat. By painting the bulb you render it ineffective to the insects its designed to attract and kill to only kill a small amount of mosquitoes. The best mosquito control is a product you sprinkle on the ground where you will be entertaining or like to sit in the evening. If it is windy it limits its effectiveness. Dump all containers of water that may be used for breeding. Water features such as waterfalls and bog gardens can have gold fish added, they will eat the larva. Install pumps to circulate the water, mosquitoes don't lay eggs in moving water. Also fans disrupt their flight so they go where they can maneuver more easily. Removing the mosquito friendly environment is more effective than trying to kill them.

    Hello Sam. I want to build a bug zapper that will kill yellow jackets. We have scads of them in hills of Bay Area, and they chase us inside in August/Sept, when eating outside in warm evenings would be delightful. Scent based traps are not effective enough. They kill some, but I think the wasps are getting more selective against that bait type.

    I'm thinking high voltage DC power supply (~4kV), and perhaps 1-2mA with a ~10mm gap between screens. Yellow jacket lands, crawls across, and whap! Any suggestions on target voltage/amperage? Would you do this with a high voltage power supply, or with cap discharge? Check out the following mfg for the power supply. Looks reasonably cheap to me. I've heard from friends that the high voltage cap discharge "tennis rackets" don't have enough punch to kill a yellow jacket.

    devin8, I would try zapper only as last resort for controlling yellow jackets. You do not include configuration for the zapper, so I cannot evaluate your idea. You do not need dc to kill bugs, the effective zappers use an ac high voltage transformer. A zapper can be lethal and a fire hazard, also costly, so I would look at other forms of bug control. I modified my zapper in attempt to attract and kill biting flies. It surely would have killed them, but it did not attract them, so I unmodified it and put it back on the shelf. I posted the instructable because the modified zapper unexpectedly attracted and killed zillions of mosquitos, something that could be of use to people bothered by them. Your zapper will not kill yellow jackets if it does not attract them to it, and if you have an effective attractant, I should think you could make simple, effective, cheap traps for them, without electricity. Something like the fly traps presented in instructables, except you would not use stinky meat but something attractive to yellow jackets. I have seen them collect in a soft drink bottle that was left with a couple inches of sugary (not artificially sweetened) soft drink in it. Why not put an inch of sugary soft drink in a glass or plastic wide-mouth jar and drop a funnel onto the top of the jar. The funnel would have a hole about the size of a US nickel, and would sit on the rim of the jar, not go down inside the jar. The bugs would find their way inside, but could not crawl or fly out. You would not use any kind of poison or bug spray, which would repel the bugs. When my zapper would not attract deer flies, I searched Internet sources, including Wikipedia, to learn the life cycle and habits of the deer fly. I designed inexpesnive, effective, passive traps and posted an instructable about them. I have not done such a study for yellow jackets, but unlike mosquitos and biting flies, they are not attracted to humans directly, unless the humans wear products that smell like their food. They look for food, water, nesting sites and mates. You might want to look around your area to see if you could eliminate whatever is attracting them to your home. If there are fruit plants or grapes growing nearby, the yellow jackets will keep coming. If not, try to eliminate anything else outdoors that might attract them, such as waste food, fruit, bottles, cans, etc. Also look around for their nests and shoot them with the long-range wasp spray (they also make nests under ground, sometimes as large as a dinner plate, with only a small entry hole in the surface of the ground). You might also be able to trick them when you are eating outside by burning a circle of tiki torches or smudge pots. Smoke really does have an effect on bees and wasps. I designed and built a zapper to kill the big, fat carpenter bees that bore holes into my wood house. It was several feet long, had five tight wires about a half inch from each other. I powered it with a transformer sold as a replacement for the one that is used in the large bug zappers, found them on the internet. Not cheap, but they really zap. I put my zappers under the roof overhang, out of direct weather, in areas where the bees had already bored holes and made nests inside the wood. I did not post this trap as an instructable, because I worried it would be too dangerous for novices. The zappers worked very well, however, the transformers kept burning out. The dead bees would remain on the trap, and I believe current continued to flow through their bodies. The transformers were not intended to deliver current continuously, and the wiring burned out. I believe you would have the same problem trying to zap yellow jackets. I eventually studied the life cycle and habits of the carpenter bees and came up with other kinds of effective measures against them. I believe you could find cheaper and safer effective ways to control yellow jackets than a zapper. If you do, post an instructable on the topic. Unclesam

    The reason I'm looking at this instructable thread is because I wanted to build one to deal with carpenter bees. I have a log house and they are eating it up. I'd love to know of the "other kinds of efficient measures against them you have come up with. And...I'm desperate at this point.


    CAbeachguy, nothing more disheartening than seeing your property being slowly destroyed. There are are patented commercial traps you can buy, strips of wood with decoy holes drilled in them, sticky stuff inside to trap the bees. They should turn up in an Internet search, has a video that reveals enough detail that someone could make their own. I believe the commercial traps are treated with a lure, whose composition is no revealed. I have virtually eliminated carpenter bees at my rural house using two strategies, over a period of several years. When the bees are active, I go outside with a cheap lightweight WalMart tennis racket, swat them to the ground then stomp them. Not all will come close to the ground, so I bought an inexpensive child-size single-shot .22 rifle, use it as a long-barrel pistol, shooting LR shotshell "pepper" shot, sold at WalMart. Get the kind that has a clear plastic nose, not the crimped metal nose. Each ball is about a third the size of the head of a pin, and will not travel far, good for about 15-foot kill. The rounds can cause injury and property damage, so care must be used. There are holes in the shot pattern that are larger than a bee, so it might take a couple shots. You do not use the gun's sights, but hold it at arms length and sight down the barrel at the moving bee, trying to anticipate where it might stop for just an instant.
    The tactic with the tennis racket is that you must approach the bee slowly and wait until it looks away from you. You absolutely positively will not hit the bee if you swing when it is looking at you or from the side. You hold the racket at arms length at an upward angle and slowly step toward the bee. When you think you are close enough, freeze and wait for the bee to lose interest in you and look away, then swat downward, watch to make sure where the bee ends up so you can stomp it. Most of the bees you see are actually males, who guard the nest but do not bore the holes and do not nurture the young. The males do not have stingers. An Internet search will show you how to tell which are the females, which can sting. Killing the males will not directly stop the boring or the nurturing of new bees, but it will remove their protection of the nests, so I kill them anyway. There are wasps that lay their eggs in the carpenter bee nests, and their young hatch and eat the bee young. I figure that removing the males, which cannot sting you, is part of the eradication process. The prime target is the females, so you want to try everything you can do to get those. They are easiest to recognize when they are returning to the nest after gathering pollen, they will be heavily coated with it.
    After following these strategies for several years, the number of bees dropped dramatically around my house. Last year I saw only about a dozen, and I killed all of those. This year so far I have seen maybe eight, killed all of those, haven't seen another for several weeks. You must be vigilant and active for these tactics to work, so if you do not have the time yourself maybe you could recruit some responsible teens to do the work.

    Thanks Sam. I'm back from vacation. I appreciate your response. I have made similar traps using empty milk jugs. They catch a few. I find that the wasps tend to often find their way out, or can't find their way in. As such, I'd still appreciate some feedback on the zapper idea. Curious why your power supplies burned out. I was thinking about just buying the DC high voltage power supply from the link (or building one from a circuit diagram in "Art of Electronics"), feeding it w/ ~12V DC from a laptop brick, having it put out ~2000V to the load. I'm thinking the load would just consist of resistance in series to prevent an overcurrent condition, and capacitance across output to build up the charge. The output is parallel screens. I talked to a friend that configures laser power supplies, and he suggested about 1uF as adequate capacitance. I figure I'd try enough resistance to generate a 5-10sec recharge time for the cap. The tennis racket style bug zappers use DC voltage to charge a cap. They run at about 500V. The bug shorts the cap. I think the idea should work. AC probably works better, and is a cheaper circuit, but I think they'd be more dangerous. Did I mention that I stepped in yellow jacket nest just before posting this inquiry? Got stung about a dozen times. This is about payback!!!!

    Seems to me that if you want to bait yellowjackets, try hamburger - those suckers just love raw meat! And watermelon juice...
    How about a trap that just stuns them and they fall into water? Bugs can't swim - water beetles and such excepted I guess.
    I do know that I have to make special watering dishes for the honeybees or they fall into the dog bowls and drown just trying to get a sip.
    I wanted to figure out a way to coax yellowjackets into a blender but that is still a work in progress... and best way to kill yellowjackets in house or attic is with steam cleaner. Wait until nightfall, they all return to nest - steam will cook them even in flight and kill all eggs.

    devin8, clarification about yellow jacket trap, similar to traps posted on instructables for collecting house flies. The small end of the funnel does hang down into the wide-mouth jar, with the lowest part of the funnel above the top of the level of the sugary fluid, but the large end of the funnel rests on the rim of the jar, sealing it, rather than the entire funnel going down into the jar. Several of these traps would be placed outside around the house and yard, cleaned and refreshed as needed, as part of a campaign to reduce the yellow jacket population, not put out only when you planned to spend time out in the yard. U.S.

    Depends on the bulb- you might just burn paint and put the bugs off - if all you want is heat try some ceramic resistors - you can even dial them in to 'body temperature' if you want. Producing just the amount of heat you want, without producing light is likely to be more energy efficient.

    I've got 4 unmodified zappers going, have near zero mosquitoes early AM, several toward evening. What I need is source(s) for HV transformers. I test zappers with wet Q-tip.

    Mosquitos are attracted to the CO2 from your breath. Any time I need to clear an are I get some dry ice and set it at least 20 feet away in an open cooler. Maybe no snap and pop but very lethal especially if the cooler is highly contrasting with the environment


    1 reply

    Hah yeah, technically, co2 is hot as your body temperature. When you breathe New York winter cold air turns body temperature and condenses into fog-like breath.(^-^)

    Hello im new to instructable commenting; do i get notified from a reply? Probably an invention forum like page?

    first of all, thanks for advice. ive opted for unrolling plastic within inner screen as i dont have a soldering iron.
    also, i still managed to get a shock from screens after i had unplugged and removed bulb! also, are you sure there no fire hazard with plastic heating up?

    3 replies

    bigbadm, it is not important for the entire bulb to be covered, it is all right for light to get out at the ends.
    There could be a fire hazard with the plastic heating up, that is why I went to all that trouble to place it away from the bulb and outside the inner wire grid. It also depends on what kind of plastic you use and how stiff it is. The bulb heat, or wind, etc, could cause your plastic to crinkle or shrink and touch the bulb, which would increase the fire hazard.
    For the sake of your peace of mind, you might want to try an alternative to the black plastic sheet, suggested by others' comments, which I have never tried, and paint the bulb black. I would use a spray paint sold for painting wood stoves, which should withstand the heat produced by the bulb and certainly should not catch fire from the heat of the bulb. I have no idea what effect the paint would have on the life of the bulb. I would clean the glass with alcohol before painting, and I would not try to paint the bulb all the way to either of its ends. A more available paint that withstands high temps, though not as high as stove paint, is paint sold at auto parts stores especially for painting auto engine parts. The engine compartment of a car certainly gets hotter than the zapper bulb.
    You say you received a shock from the screens after you unplugged and removed the bulb. Do you mean that you unplugged the entire unit or that you unplugged the bulb from its socket? The zapper portion of the unit contines to work even if the bulb has been reomved. I cannot imagine how you received a shock from the screens if you unplugged the entire unit and removed the bulb. I have never seen a unit that contained a capacitor or any other energy storage device. Your unit may have an electronic design that I have not seen before. Judging from your experience, I would caution that you use a dry wooden stick with piece of wet paper towel rubber-banded to its end to test for zaps and connect the two grids together, to drain off any charge, after you unplug the unit, if you expect to come in contact with the grids.
    Also note my general safety warning that someone who is not accustomed to working with electrical equipment may not want to work on or use this project without partnering with someone who is. There is a risk of injury, death and fire.
    Do post a comment on your final result and how it works.

    Hah yeah uncle sam knows best(^~^)

    hares an easier and safer way to discharge the caps a screwdriver with it literally plugged in to the ground hole of your outlet no water plastic wood or coat hanger required