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Insect Light Traps

ILTs – Insect Light Traps:
A Standard Tool in Fly Suppression and an Adjunct to IPM Strategies

ILT stands for "insect light trap" and refers to the entire gamut of fly traps that utilize special sources of light that attract flies. The flies fly into the trap and are either stunned or passively caught in a special receptacle within the trap. The former type, commonly referred to as “zappers,” consist of some form of electrically charged grid in front of an attractant light source. When the insect hits the grid it is either killed instantly or, in some models, merely stunned so that it drops downward into a receptacle that is later emptied and cleaned.

The problem with this “lethal” kind of trap is that there is often a literal explosion of the fly’s body, and body parts can contaminate the area around the trap. For this reason, “zappers” are not acceptable in most food-preparation or storage facilities. The passive forms of ILTs are now by far the preferable methodology in these areas.

In one form or another, the many different non-zappers – the ILTs of choice – share the following general characteristics. 

  • They are equipped with an electric light source whose wavelength is especially attractant to flying insects.
  • Enclosed directly under the light is some form of physical trap that ensnares the fly, usually a form of glue board. These traps must be easily retrievable and refillable.

It is in these details that various manufacturers offer different styles. Some merely possess trays of glue boards which must be emptied and refreshed weekly or semi-monthly, depending upon the density of the fly population. In others, rolls of sticky paper are installed. These rolls slowly revolve and, in essence, last up to six weeks before becoming fully filled.

According to style and engineering designs, each manufacturer has its own model, but the mechanics are essentially the same. There are, however, some very important scientific and regulatory “dos and don’ts” in the installation, placement and maintenance of these machines, regardless of their style or size. Here are some examples:

  • Most experts agree that, for efficiency, the machines should be placed between three and six feet up from the floor.
  • They must not be placed near or facing outside doors or windows, as this could actually attract flies to enter the building which otherwise would have stayed outside!
  • They must not be placed directly above food-preparation areas.
  • It is critical that the bulbs be changed at least once a year, regardless of how the visible light appears to humans. If available and affordable, “shatterproof” bulbs are preferred and are a requirement in some facilities.

Successful fly suppression is a multifaceted operation that cannot rely solely upon one dimension. Obviously, sanitation, good housekeeping and structural integrity are primary factors. Many commercial food plants, for example, make use of air curtains and the generation of “positive air pressure” to form a physical barrier or deterrent from the outside. In addition, there are specific forms of outdoor lighting designed to minimize the normal attraction to all flying insects. And, needless to say, the discovery and elimination of the source of the flies is paramount to success.

ILTs can be a useful adjunct. We have supplied small units to restaurants and bars, and larger, more industrial units to laboratories and plants as best fits each case. We even use some of these traps as monitors, inspecting the receptacle to identify the particular species of insect present. Often, the discovery of a particular species is a warning of the presence of unexpected insects, such as the various stored-product pests that evolve into a winged adult stage.

As suggested in the title, ILTs and the other procedures discussed are important components of a successful IPM program that endeavors to minimize the sole reliance upon chemical control measures. 

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