My Yellow Bug Light Actually Works!

by updated 2008/06/05

As part of the switch to using as many Compact Fluorescent Lights as possible, I bought a yellow CFL bug light for the front porch. I was not optimistic about it’s effectiveness as the yellow incandescent we have used in the past do not seem to deter the bugs at all. Well, this one works!

With the exception of a couple of moths, which can be seen in the pictures, there have been no bugs around the light since I installed it a few weeks ago. With the yellow incandescent, the bugs came by the hundreds, followed by all the spiders with their webs, trying to catch dinner. Then the webs caught all the dirt etc. blowing in the wind and very shortly the front entry way was a mess! The area around the light is so much cleaner now. I don’t know if CFL bulbs in general are less attractive to bugs or if there is another reason for it working so well, but I recommend everyone try it out if they want a more bug free front porch.

The only drawback to this particular CFL is that it really does take a few minutes to reach peak intensity. It comes on right away at about 1/2 strength, and then gradually builds to full power. On the porch, this is OK as it is not the same need as walking into a dark room and wanting immediate full light.

Will Sig
1 chaosgone

The bugs are starting to return. I am going to look into getting a yellow CFL bug light for the front porch. I always have lots of bugs and spiders around the front porch light in the Spring and Summer.

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2 Will

Welcome back chaosgone. That video on your site of the three year old describing Star Wars is the cutest thing I have seen in a while!

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3 Joe Deasy

I believe there must be other factors that would explain any stated perception that a yellow fluorescent bulb attracted less bugs than a yellow incandescent bulb did. It’s just not possible for it to be true. Used properly, the reason yellow light bulbs reduce the attraction of bugs is because they radiate less blue spectrum light and as such, the bugs just dont see it as well as they see ordinary white bulbs. And, it is a fact that fluorescent lights radiate more blue spectrum light than incandescent lights. Therefore, bugs are more attracted to fluorescent bulbs than they are to incandescent. Sorry to but in here, but misinformation just BUGS me.

This explanation from GE:
The human visual system is activated by radiant energy in the color range from deep blue to dark red, which we call light. The vision of flying insects, however, is shifted away from long-wavelength red toward the shorter blue and near ultraviolet (black light) wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. Sources which radiate ultraviolet energy and blue light are most attractive to flying insects, while those with a deficiency of ultraviolet and blue are less attractive. Insects see black light fluorescent, mercury, and metal halide best. Lamps which insects have a difficult time seeing include incandescent, high-pressure sodium, and bug light incandescent (yellow).

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4 Will

Hi Joe – After this long length of time, the difference between the two still seems apparent. The CFL yellow light does look more yellow that the incandescent. Maybe that is the difference.

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5 anthony

Hi Will, I’m really curious after reading this, what brand CFL bug light did you end up using? I tried a CFL bug light, Sylvania brand, and it just doesn’t work that well for me, I was a little disappointed, so I’m really curious which one you have that worked so well. Thanks for posting.

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6 GLO

Hi,

Do you think that using a yellow filter would provide similar results?

I have an undercover pergola with 3 lantern style lights. I was trying to replace the bulbs with Energy efficient once but the one i have are too tall.

Each lantern style lamp has 4 glass sides. I was thinking about using some yellow tints on the sides of the lantern that are visible to the areas where the bus would come from, thus leaving the other sides clear to radiate the white light to the entertainment area.

Do think that concept would work?

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7 Will

I would think that yellow filters would work. The color of the light is the main thing, so try to match what a bug light puts out as closely as possible. Try it and let us know how it turns out!

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8 GLO

I will have to buy a Yellow bulb for my front of house, (just like yours) then i will see how yellow things are and do my best to find a transparent tint/film to cover the sides of the pergola lanterns!

Will keep you posted.

If you dont hear back from me in a month, bump the post and it will remind me!

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9 djmoore

I bought a Sylvania CFL Bug Light and took pictures of it through a diffraction grating, which allows you to see the actual wavelengths being used. I compared this crude spectrum with that of an incandescent bug light.

In fact, the CFL emits light in red and green wavelengths, with a very tiny amount of yellow. The tube has a very heavy yellow coating, which I think is used to block as much UV as possible.

Due to the chill weather and subsequent lack of flying arthropods, I was unable to test its efficacy at not attracting bugs.

Your article was the only review of CFL bug lights I found.

djmoores last blog post..Product Review: Sylvania Super Saver CFL Bug Light

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10 Scott

This is the caution on the inside of the package (you have to buy it and open the package to see it:
Caution: Do not use in luminaires controlled by a dimmer, electronic timers, or photocells… So if your outside light comes on at dusk and turns off after a set number of hours, you are not supposed to use these lights.

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11 Clark

This is in response to the poster who mentioned that the CFL Bug Light puts off light mainly in the Red/Green spectrum – Red and Green together make Yellow. As a matter of fact Yellow is a combination of pure Red and pure Green. Note that this applies to Additive color (such as a computer monitor or light bulbs) and not Subtractive color (such as paint or ink).

Just thought I would mention that seeing as the person obviously went to some trouble to test the color on the bulbs but obviously doesn’t know that much about color theory.

As far as the person doubting that CFL’s do a better job than incandescent, that all depends on the wavelength of the CFL light. Since these bulbs are coated with such a strong yellow coating I doubt the higher wavelengths make it through the glass. Instead they are filtered out by the coating which mainly lets the yellow through.

BTW, thanks Will for the helpful posts!

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12 Will

Thanks for your comment and the compliment, Clark! I was just looking at this light last night as there was a very interesting bug that was attracted to it. Since I first wrote this post, I have noticed that some bugs like the Box Elder bug seem to be as attracted to the light as they are to a regular light. Other bugs, like mosquitoes and moths definitely stay away.

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13 B Gruben

What about LED bug lights. Has anyone seen them or know if there even are any? There are so many replacements for incandescent and CFLs now. Just wondering if this would work. ALSO what about just adding a yellow lense?

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14 B Gruben

In Lighting Theory, the color is actually referred to as the temperature. The lower the number of Kelvins, the “yellower” the light appears. Also, I found these links to LED alternatives: http://www.besthomeledlighting.com/product/PAR38-120-E27-W-126-Y AND http://www.besthomeledlighting.com/product/A19-120-E27-20-Y The lumen count on the second link, which leads to a regular edison bulb replacement, is pretty low, but how bright does it need to be? I think a very yellow CFL WOULD be more effective as long as it is truly giving off no blue. Bugs like the bluer light bc it resembles the sunlight, which is what is attracting them.

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15 terry berger

i am really annoyed by all the bugs around my porch light. i have modified my cfl in such a way that it bugs flying around it are just a few. this was accomplished by a simple electronic circuit. the duty cycle and frequency driving the bulb was adjusted, this control the output spectrum of the cfl. the bulb is basically invisible to most flying insects. you see the light, but the bugs do not. i am presently getting ready to market the modified cfl. it works well. just some fyi thanks for reading this

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16 KevinM

Will, would you be able to post the model CFL you are using? I have tried some different “Yellow” bulbs and have not found many to be very effective. Though, some bulbs varied in their shades of yellow. I understand if you do not want to endorse a product, but I bet most people would appreciate a tried & true tested product. Thank you.

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17 Scott

Good post and comments! I wish that someone would make bug light models for the other CFL styles like the 4 pin models and GU-24. Figures I have one of each (photocell) and they are only made in bug-attracting white!
Scott recently posted..16th Annual World Expo of BeerMy Profile

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18 Carmen

Let’s see if I can explain the difference. We say a regular old Incandescent bulb gives us white light, but really it’s giving off all the colors of light, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and everything in between. When we see them all at once, all together, it looks white to us. The old way of making a bug light was to put a yellow coating on an incandescent bulb. This is because bugs are really only attracted to blue, purple, and ultraviolet light (which is why bug zappers give off those colors of light). The thing is, a simple coating doesn’t really do a good job of getting rid of the blue and purple light. It gets rid of some of it, enough for it to look yellow to us, but not enough so the bugs aren’t interested.
Fluorescent bulbs on the other hand produce light in a way which makes it easy to completely exclude certain colors of light. A yellow CFL actually gives off practically no blue, purple, or ultraviolet light. This has the obvious advantage of not attracting insects to our porches, but there are actually other advantages. Replacing incandescents with CFLs reduces the cost of electricity, helps conserve natural resources, and it’s actually better for the bugs. Lights that attract bugs are really harmful to them.

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19 Pete

Have a Costco bought dual LED motion sensor by my back door. Very bright. Want to use some kind of yellow lens over the LEDs to convert it to a bug light. Many termites during the warmer humid months
Would a yellow lens turn this into a bug light?
Where can I find a yellow lens?
Thought an old car tail light might work as the LED plastic surface is slightly rounded.

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20 Will

That’s a good idea Pete. I have not done that but maybe a place like this: http://www.stagelightingstore.com/Gel-Color-Filters

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21 Pete

Thanks for the info. The smallest curved lens is 5.188″, but if I get the plastic type, I might be able to cut it smaller. The Led lens is about 3 1/4 ‘ diameter. Never occurred to me to check under stage lighting.
Pete

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22 Pete

Shipping cost killed the lens idea. Bought some canary yellow spray paint today. Tried it on a piece of plexiglas and held up to LED light. Seems to work.
Will spray paint the plastic lens on the LED light in a day or two. I’ll see how long the paint last without blistering. Lens is about 2-3″ from large led. Light is not usually on except for short periods in the evening.

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23 Pete

Lens is actually only about 1 ” From Large LED. So far so good. When termites start to swarm around April I’ll know if the yellow paint works.

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