How to Keep Bugs Away From Outdoor Lights

Lindsay Woolman

One of the worst things about sitting outside in the evening is having to deal with bugs swarming around lights. There are a few theories about why bugs fly into lights, including navigation confusion.

The bugs want to follow the brightest light in the sky, which used to be the moon, but they become disoriented by modern lights. While no one knows the exact reason insects are attracted to lights, it poses an annoying and persistent problem. Rather than keeping the lights off outside at night, there are a few ways to lessen this problem. You can make the lights less appealing and those pesky bugs will go elsewhere.

  1. Use yellow bug lights for your porch, deck and balcony. Unlike normal light bulbs where bugs are drawn to blue or ultraviolet light, they cannot see yellow light as well and are not attracted to the color. While these lights don’t repel the insects, since they cannot see the yellow, they are less likely to gather.

  2. Light citronella candles near the light source. Mosquitoes reportedly dislike the smell of citronella and may buzz away.

  3. If bugs are gathering under outdoor porch lights, consider painting the porch ceiling a light blue. Often done in the South Carolina Low Country, one theory is that the color is helps keep bees, wasps and other flying insects away.

  4. Install ceiling fans on your porch or balcony and sit beneath them. An oscillating fan plugged in an outdoor space is also a deterrent to flying bugs.