Erin Doman on August 3, 2016 1 Comment Crafting a balanced yard, porch or patio requires as much precision and design as the creation of a healthy, well-manicured garden. There are several main factors to consider when choosing lighting that both respects and enhances an outdoor space: ambiance, maintenance and, most importantly, its effect on bug life. Yards, porches and patios play significant roles in our lives: welcoming friends for a reunion, allowing children a place to explore and, above all, as a respite after a long day inside. However, we are unable to enjoy any of these activities if our yard has been taken over by swarms of flies and mosquitoes. Thankfully there are many creative ways to combat this problem, including the relatively unknown and underutilized method of using LED lights. Since working with nature is unpredictable and delicate, our outdoor spaces must be transformed in a way that both reflects the homeowner’s vision and celebrates the already-present and thriving environment. The following tips can help you create a beautiful and functional backyard that is virtually bug-free. Creating a Bug-Free Yard Insects are one of the largest distractions when trying to enjoy the beauty of an outdoor area. But once the perfect balance is reached, both nature and the homeowners’ vision are enriched and recognized. Even a well-laid out patio, lighting and all, can still attract pests. These unwelcomed and misdirected insects are being thrown off by new light sources that distract their natural flight patterns and intuitions. Understanding how and why these swarming creatures are attracted to light is the first step — and key tool — to understanding how to discourage pests from inviting themselves to your outdoor event. Insects are phototactic, meaning they instinctively move toward or away from light. Many scientists believe that positive phototactic insects — those who are attracted to light, opposed to put off by it — are using the moon as a directional source, and are therefore sent off course by unnatural lighting sources in man-made spaces. They also use this instinct as a self-preservation tool, since flying toward the direction of the moon is a way to escape an approaching predator. So clearly, it is in a homeowner’s best interest both for the environment and their overall comfort to discourage bugs from recognizing the artificial lighting fixtures. Determining the types of artificial lights that local bugs attract to is a significant strategy to working with nature and providing a more pleasant outdoor living area. The LED Debate There has been a large debate, especially online over the past five years, about which low-wattage outdoor lighting deters insects from swarming. As of a year ago, several studies have clarified that many insects are still drawn by the slightest heat source and light-emitting bulb — that is unavoidable. The important part of their findings however, is that the rare qualities of LED lights allow the most control of and regard for local bug life — particularly due to light temperature to the actual heat emitted from the bulb. Bugs are only attracted to a certain wavelength of light — a key detail included in a 2016 study. To elaborate, consider how insects process light itself as they travel. Insects recognize a different range of light than the human eye, favoring the ultraviolet spectrum more than humans. Ultraviolet light is utilized as a navigational tool particularly at night, which is why bug zappers purposely emit these rays to attempt to attract unwanted porch insects and zap them dead. But deterring bugs has created a more complicated debate. In a study conducted early this year, presented by Michael Justice to the American Association of the Advancement of Science, Justice found that bulbs emitting a warmer, reddish color attracted significantly fewer bugs, even less than traditional “bug lights”. The white incandescent bulb in this study captured the highest level of insects, with the CFL following close behind. The study also found that insects in the Hemiptura family (stink bugs and close relatives) were much less likely (less than half in fact) to move toward the LED lights with a reddish hue. The more traditional light sources of the past have been shocking bugs’ navigation system. And since it takes much longer for insects’ eyes to adjust to light, they swoop and swerve, flying into the light over and over before moving on. This is what we witness when swarms of insects continue to hang around the area for an extended time, before realizing they have been misdirected. Bug-Free LED Lights: Other Considerations Before you simply choose a lighting style that can protect your yard from swarms of bugs, you should also keep concepts like the following in mind. Ambiance and Design Similar to the interior sections of a home, lighting remains one of the most important psychological factors in determining the ambiance of an outdoor space and the level of comfort it provides. Above all, joining function with fashion is key to maintaining a patio or yard that is both welcoming and easy to sustain as time goes on. For both function and fashion, LED lights play a large role. Warm, red-emitting LEDs in particular are ideal for complementing the comfort of dusk, especially as the sun transitions to evening. If your day is often spent in front of the blue glow of a computer screen, choosing warmer tones is particularly important, allowing a break to your eyes and mind. Upkeep and Flexibility Workability and ongoing maintenance are just as important as the initial building stage. Luckily, the durability and extended life span of LED lights allow for fewer replacements, which is especially crucial for complicated outdoor fixtures. The lifespan of an LED is approximately 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb. And opposed to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, which often shatter, LED lights are impressively stretched to their limits during testing and must often survive being dropped from 4 feet off the ground to pass inspection. This strength and high-standard testing during manufacturing makes them ideal for weather-prone areas, especially through moisture and wind. All of these benefits feed in to the necessity of an overall awareness of our ecosystem and carbon footprint (since these bulbs use 75% less energy than their competitors), creating an all-around win-win when choosing LED lights. The Best Outdoor Lighting Option for You Overall, the research points to this conclusion: purchasing a warmer LED, especially of red concentration, is the most effective way to both keep bugs away form an outdoor area and avoid the disruption of their natural flight patterns. Steering clear of lights with the blue spectrum and high-heat emission will reduce your backyard bug population significantly. Don’t forget about the added benefits of LED lights — durability, lifespan, and energy-efficiency — which make these red LED lights the best option for a peaceful and comfortable outdoor design.