A Huge Microwave-powered Bug Zapper

This is the biggest bug zapper we’ve ever seen. It’s called the Megazap as its zapping area is 1 square meter. [Eighdot] and [Sa007] combined their talents for the build in order to help reduce the insect population around the Eth0 2012 Summer festival.

You may recall from our bug zapping light saber build that these devices work by providing two energized grids. When an insect flies between the grids it allows the potential energy to overcome the air resistance by travelling through the insect’s body. The Megazap uses a transformer from a microwave oven to source that potential. The transformer produces 2.4 kV and the current is limited by a floodlight fitted inside the microwave. The side effect of using the lamp as a limiter is that it lights up with each bug zapped, providing a bit of a light show. Don’t miss the video after the break to see some flying foes get the life shocked out of them.

[Thanks Edwin]

68 thoughts on “A Huge Microwave-powered Bug Zapper

    1. When I was a kid (30+ years ago) dad built a bug light with an electric fence transformer (10Kv) that had a four foot florescent bulb in the middle. As I recall, there were NO dead bugs underneath it. Ever. Despite it working quite well.

      1. I think that at higher power levels, you don’t end up with bug bodies because they either explode or are vaporized completely. So it might look clean but people nearby are getting rained on by microscopic bug gibs.

    2. Once there was a bug zapper on my dad’s garage and one day he put a bucket underneeth with a toad in it for about 2 weeks. When we decided to let the toad go, it was enourmous. Even after we let it go, it still hung around the bug zapper till the fall when we took the bug zapper down. After that I never saw the toad again. But I did see plenty of tree frogs on the garage siding.

  1. Other than the hacking value (appreciated), why do it? They are killing thousands of insects that are mostly beneficial (if only as food for birds, perhaps). They are not killing mosquitos… So, again…. WHY???

    1. Agreed. We did a study of bug zappers a few years back and discovered that 99% of the insects killed are harmless or beneficial. As you stated, mosquitoes are not attracted to light.

      Interestingly enough, we found bug zappers to be excellent for killing biting flies when used during daylight hours.

        1. Partially. There is far more to them than that.

          They are also attracted by: carbon dioxide, lactic acid, octenol (type of alcohol, normal in human exhalation), and believe it or not, movement and dark colors.

          1. Mosquitoes are attracted to natural gas leaks. Propane as well. I encountered a cloud of skeeters along a buried gas line. Fire Dept confirmed the leak and we called the gas company.

  2. Really Ino??? I suppose you don’t drive a vehicle either so no bugs are crushed on your windshield? For a short term application I think it’s an awesome hack! It would be interesting to see if it affects insect population near the ground and surrounding areas. I doubt it’s anywhere near large enough to cause any rift in the local food chain based on how many bugs are still flying around the zapper near the end of the clip.

  3. While I appreciate the hack, it would have been more friendly to the non-mosquito flyers to go with a propane-based mosquito trap. A typical machine covers an acre, generating just enough C02 to attract the mosquitoes into a fan-driven trapping basket.

  4. It seems like people are missing the point here: at events like this all bugs are annoying. This has nothing to do with controlling mosquito bites. It also has no chance of eliminating anywhere near insects to have even the slightest impact on the local ecology.

    What I want to know is how well it actually worked. Did the annoying bug population in the immediate vicinity take a noticeable dive? Or did it just stink up the area (ever used a “tennis racket” zapper indoors?) and siphon bugs from the surroundings?

  5. Well the zapper worked pretty damn good! It mostly killed mosquitoes (couple of thousand). We actually collected them all on a plastic tarp, but we forgot to bring a scale to weigh it..

    Most of us are pretty animal friendly, but when you get stung about 25 times a night, it calls for drastic measures.

  6. Unless the event participants party in total darkness and hold their breath all the time I really doubt this will have the success desired. CO attracs skeeters, and even my LED keychain light attracts bugs if it’s the only light in the area. Given the likely time this is operational, the local environment may be impacted very little.

    1. Right, all that matters is having a cool hack. Who cares if it kills while serving no purpose other than waste electricity and life… sad how some people are born without any sense of empathy for the life surrounding them.

  7. Bats are likely victims of this carnage some are endangered. To anyone who thinks ALL bugs are bad, get off of this insect planet. Just 7 billion ‘advanced’ primates, let’s see you go thru complete metamorphosis. We creare your crops we can also wipe them and you off this world, ever heard of the great reptiles?

  8. Hack FAIL on several levels:

    – it kills
    – it attracts bugs in their habitat, instead of keeping them away
    – potentially lethal (100s W @ kV)
    – attracted bugs are out of your way, so there is no need to kill them (why not capture them?)

    Making this not a clever solution to the ‘problem’ at all. And for me, hacking is about creating clever things.

    Approches to keep bugs from outside events:

    – keep bugs from flying into limited area
    – nets, air curtain, draft
    – attract/extract rogue bugs from limited area
    – light (optics, aperture), scent (bio-hacking)
    – traps (fan, bug-diode (one way in container))
    – transport, count, identify, release bugs

    There should be plenty of research on the topic with proposed solutions for areas where bugs pose an actual risk.

    HaD: title fail, ethics fail, not mentioning lethal voltage fail..

    1. *Sigh* What is with you people? This site didn’t violate ethics, the title is not that misleading, and if you cant handle the voltage don’t play with the wires.

      Seriously. This site aggregates (or at least tries to) interesting DIY projects and “hacks” that reuse parts in a way they weren’t designed. So it kills bugs. Goodness knows I have wanted to build something like this. Kudos to them for getting out and actually building something.

      The only thing I could think while watching this is “man I hope that is away from the crowd, that zapping noise would get annoying over time”. If you have a problem please hack up a non-lethal bug tracking and counting system and drop it over on http://hackaday.com/contact-hack-a-day/. Otherwise enjoy a perfectly fine hack for what it is: a wicked microwave transformer reuse project.

      1. Saying that the title wasn’t THAT misleading is silly. Why make the title misleading at all? Why not just add one word, and make the title precise and correct?

        “A huge microwave-transformer powered bug zapper”

        Problem solved.

        Hackaday is not just an aggregator. They have a staff that often editorializes, voices concerns, or lauds hacks they think are clever. It is important as a community to point out problems with their arguments, or with the safety of the hacks, etc.

        On to the bug zapper!

        Yes, it kills lots and lots of bugs. You say that like it’s automatically a good thing. It’s not. Many other posters have pointed this out. Many of their statements are backed up by research and science.

        More importantly, building something like this and praising it for being a neat hack, without bothering to determine if it’s actually a beneficial hack, is foolish. They didn’t bother to check if their goal was accomplished, they just assumed a pile of charred bugs was a good result.

        I have allergies, which is annoying. I know I’m allergic to grass, and I think that pouring gasoline on it would eliminate my sneezing, and built a machine to spray gasoline across my grass, without starting a fire. I saw a bunch of my lawn turn brown, and declared success. Is this a good hack?

    2. I say this with levitivity, but your moral views on killing bugs don’t make you the arbiter on deciding what is hacking and what isn’t. Theres no way this is a hack fail. He accomplished exactly what he was trying to do with the resources he had on the cheap. That is pretty much the definition of hacking. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t down this one quote though “Catch the bugs and release them” ~InQueery. I finally understood when I heard “What are you some kind of pussy kid?” ~Your Dad. Anyway. To Mark Smith. Who has “Scientific Backed Research” to call this a bad hack because it kills bugs? Don’t forget, those are the same bugs that feed the plants that gave you allergies that made you set your lawn on fire with gasoline. If I want dead bugs on my lawn and I have dead bugs, that’s a good thing. It’s not your lawn so you don’t get to decide. If it’s so bad then open a bug sanctuary on yours. That’s right. A bug sanctuary! I hope you sleep better at night with the constant ping of stink bugs flying into your glass windows. It’s going to get expensive running 5000 watts of HID lighting to keep all the bugs on the reserve at all times. I’ll make sure to read about your next National Geographic Issue on bug poachers Sept 13. However, as for me. I vote Shellac. Great job [Eighdot] and [Sa007]. Keep the hacks on comin

  9. >ethics fail
    Are you stupid? How is this an ethics fail? Who gives any shit about insects? Do you know how many your car kills every kilometer. I once counted on a 70 miles track and found approx. 2000 spots on the front of my car. Not counting the ones that left no mark! It is totally ridicuolous to speak about ethics and insects in one sentence. This device is not unethical, just toally useless to get rid of mosquitos.

    1. 2000 bug impacts over what distance? Were you driving in circles around your street, or did you drive a few miles? There’s a big difference between localized eradication and small costs over a large distance.

      The ethics fail could’ve been
      1) This misleading title (hackaday staff)
      2) Picking an outdoor venue near a lake and then upsetting the ecosystem (however slightly) because it’s annoying.

      1. @zing: It was probably more a writing fail on my part. I read the comment just fine. My reply was just too vague.

        By “over what distance”, I mean: are you talking about 70 miles away from your point of origin (driving from one town to another), a 70 mile loop (a 35 mile trip and a return), or did you go in a small loop in a small localized area, like 100 laps on a .7 mile race car track?

  10. I love the HV and the reuse of microwave oven parts…why are people complaining about ethics? there are whole industries committed to killing just about anything….go there and complain to them.

  11. During the spring the weather in the Netherlands has been unfriendly towards wasps causing a decline in the wasp population down to twenty percent of usual. Since wasps normally eat insects the insect population has exploded this summer. The weather (again) was ideal for mosquitoes, lots of pools of still water and a high temperature this last week or so. So this device actually makes a small step towards restoring normal bug population.

    1. Apparently, you didn’t read the replies. Light doesn’t attract mosquitos, so this device would be ineffective against them. Also, it may actually attract other bugs to its surroundings, potentially without killing most of them. And most insects, like all life, are part of an ecosystem: they have many benefits, as others pointed out.

      All in all, very unethical, and likely useless device.

      1. My own “research” tells a different story … my desk light always attracts bugs. I usually have the thing pointing to the ceiling and so it collects dead bugs in the housing. I turned it over and had a look at the contents and there are a lot of dead mosquitoes as well as moths and other stuff i don’t recognize.

        It could of course be the heat of the lamp attracting the mosquito?

  12. I’d like to see some testing of this show up on Hackaday. However, I have come to a sad conclusion based on a bit of research.

    At best, you marginally reduced the flying pest population, while making a neat light and sound show, at the cost of a bunch of harmless or beneficial insects.

    In all likelihood, you made a neat light show that made your bug problem worse, and maybe damaged the local ecology.

    My reasoning:
    Studies done on bug zappers showed that in most areas, you’re getting a tiny number of mosquitos and a huge number of other flying insects. Some indicate that you might have actually attracted MORE insects to your event, and also sprayed bug guts all over the place. Worse, you were frying insects that are beneficial to the local ecosystem, some of whom likely prey on mosquito larvae, or even adult mosquitos.

    According to the CDC website, there hasn’t been enough study on area of effect repellents like those mosquito coils on preventing disease, etc., so they still suggest individual bug repellent. Some studies also have shown that moving air currents disperse CO2, which can reduce the attraction of mosquitos. Don’t want to get bit? Throw on some bug spray and set up a nice airflow with some fans. Just make sure bats and stuff can’t fly into your fans.

    At best, you’ll repel pests with both the spray and the fans. At worst, you’ll repel pests with the spray and have a nice breeze.

    1. The lamps where on anyway so we probably didn’t attract more bugs by ‘only’ adding the zapper.

      We mostly killed annoying bugs (they might have been harmless but they where very anoying and in HUGE numbers),
      im not a biologist so I dont know what spicies they where, we got LOADS of mosquitos also, about 10 wasps and 3 big moths, and some other bugs of different spicies.

      As far as I know bats hate light, and we didn’t see any bat near the tower, and a least one above the other end of the field.

      The lamps only seamed to attract bugs on the same field as the lamps and from no more that ~100m away,after a couple of hours there where almost no bugs left going to the lamps, and the difference at ground where VERY noticeable.

  13. Extremely misleading title, nothing about this hack involves microwaves. I don’t care where the transformer came from. By this logic any device which uses parts from an optical drive could be called laser powered.

  14. Loved the article, loved the hack. I agree with the title; this is a ‘microwave powered bug zapper’.
    I’m going to feed the trolls and suggest that you need to take your lack of semantic flexibility elsewhere.

    I come here to read about cool hacks. I expect to bring my brain with me to determine if the hack is worthwhile repeating or not. It’s a shame so many people require spoon feeding.

    Props to the folks who were prompted to go off to do their own research as a result. I’m also pleased to see how many experts have turned out for the discussion.

  15. I was camping about 10 meters away from this device, and it really worked wonders.

    Before the device was turned on, we had at least 100-200 insects flying around in our village of partytents. After two days of zapping bugs there was hardly anything flying around…. But wasps got a bigger problem the days after … wonder if we killed its natural predator?

    1. 100-200 in an entire campsite? Wow.

      I’ve ridden my bike through swarms of gnats that must have had at least 10,000 bugs occupying a space about the size of a large beach ball! Full face protection is a must for those, esp at speed. :P

  16. There has been a recent outbreak of the West Nile virus in the southern states in recent week. It’s especially bad in Texas, near college station. I’m all for insect control.

    The fact is, it’s a pest zapper. Not necessarily a mosquito killer. So instead of bitchin’ about ethics, let’s talk about focusing our bloodshed on the biters. instead.

    Fact: Mosquito’s are attracted to people who have recently eaten a banana or had an alcoholic drink.

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