Can I modify an insect zapper to NOT kill insects while still attracting them?

I have this electric bug zapper that has been sitting unused for several years. I was wondering if it was possible to safely modify the bug zapper to attract more insects without killing or otherwise harming them. If it isn’t possible for whatever reason, would putting the bug zapper inside my house behind glass, or putting the bug zapper inside a sealed see-through container, would it still attract the insects?

In case this is relevant here are the specs of the bug zapper in question:

FLOWTRON model BK-15D
Lamp: BF-35
Input: 120V, 60Hz, .35A

Commercial bug zappers use a UVA/UVB type flourescent bulb like this for example. They use the light for attracting insects and glue or electric shock to kill the bugs.

In this case, I think it’s safer to run the bulb in a normal fixture that’s compatible with it or maybe use a UV-flashlight with white sheet instead since most bug zappers have plenty of warnings on them about tampering with internals.

Maybe putting it behind glass (like you mentioned), or maybe behind a window screen would let it attract insects without killing them?

Edit: If you choose behind the glass option, check that whatever glass or plastic you’re using lets the UV light through. For example, the unsafe for this application UVC bulbs are made with fuzed quarts instead of glass so that wavelength of light can go through.

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I thought about this years back. But due to my lack of experience and knowledge concerning high voltage hardware I decided go with a black light bulb in a clamp lamp. You could wrap the whole bug zapper with window screen I guess. Only the smallest of critters would be getting through then.

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It appears to be a UV bulb surrounded by a high voltage grid. If you disconnected the high voltage grid it should function as you want. Obviously, if you’ve never taken apart electronics before, make sure you’re careful to do some reading so you don’t shock yourself (remove power, discharge capacitors, etc), but otherwise it should be a really easy mod.

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I have actually done this before. There are actually 2 grids, and the insect needs to hit them both to be shocked. Remove the cage around the grids, cut the wires that go to the grids (when it is unplugged) using a pair of plyers with rubber coating on the handles then cap the exposed wires with electrical caps. Then reassemble the whole thing without the grids (they should be completely unattached now).

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This is also what I’d suggest, just a light and sheet setup will work just fine. Trying to tamper with or take apart a zapper seems ill advised.

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The machine is well past its warranty anyways, and as a bug lover I don’t see it getting any use other than as a modified UV bug attractant. I have disassembled a few electronics before, like game camera’s, but nothing that I’d consider “heavy-duty electronics” like bug zappers or power tools. Luckily the amount of electricity bug zappers use isn’t enough to pose a serious threat to larger animals like humans.

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Luckily the amount of electricity bug zappers use doesn’t pose nearly as big of a threat to larger animals like humans, but yeah, I’m sure the manufacturer wouldn’t want to hear about this.

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Also: Make sure the zapper is unplugged for several hours before doing something like this to make sure the charge dissipates. They still have the ability to shock after they’ve been unplugged.

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You should probably just put a lightbulb near a sheet instead of trying to do homegrown electrical work on a device made to electrocute things.

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UV bulbs are cheap and SAFE. Buy one that fits in a normal outside socket and plug it in. Simple and cost effective.

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The zapper’s been unplugged for several years.

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Yes, they are pretty easy to get these days and they have a number of interesting uses.
Do be sure you get the safer longwave bulbs- UVA lights. Shortwave bulbs -UVC andUVB- are damaging to skin and eyes.

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I like that idea of a UV bulb and a sheet!

I’m going to try that to see what there is to see at night. I bet a lot of interesting bugs show up.

Thanks!

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That is a great pro tip.

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beyond whether you can modify a bug zapper to not kill, i think you should ask yourself whether the UV lamp puts out the right wavelength(s) to attract the insects you want to see?

after all, they’re tuned to attract insects like mosquitos, right? but do you want to observe mosquitos? are they even good at attracting, say, large, charismatic moths?

Good point. I’m not sure what specific wavelengths moths or mosquitos prefer.

Aren’t mosquitoes attracted to CO2, anyway?

Bug zappers seem to be pretty indiscriminate. They always seem to have all sorts of bugs around them. Besides, they’re all being drawn by the same mechanism, right? So it stands to reason that the frequency can’t be that different.

(Entirely possible that I’m wrong, but I know I’ve seen pictures of moth-baiting via sheets and lightbulbs that have definitely rounded up plenty of non-moths. Beetles and such.)

Can’t find a teardown for your model, but operationally these bug zapper contain two circuits:

  1. The lamp ballast - starting/limiting bulb current
  2. Grid driver - high voltage/low current for zapping

I couldn’t find your model, but found this link for a different model from the same manufacturer where it seems like the ballast and driver are one unit.

If you do end up trying to disconnect the grid, it’s best to disconnect the grid driver from mains supply if possible. The biggest risk in just disconnecting the grid is that the high voltage arcs inside the zapper, possibly igniting plastic or other wiring.

Therefore, if you do end up disconnecting or clipping a grid wire, maybe cap it off with a large wire nut and fill it with silicone caulking to reduce the risk of high voltage arcing?

Theres a variety of different UV lightbulbs you can purchase, all with different uses and wavelengths. I’m assuming that some of those beetle species may have had a similar range of ultraviolet vision to the moths.