By Bennett Jordan,Ph.D., BCE, excerpt from 2017 PRSM Best Practices


Retail stores need lighting schemes that make potential customers feel safe and welcome. The problem is that shoppers aren’t the only ones brought in by a sharp display; night-flying insects are highly attracted to most types of lighting commonly used in and around stores. While the proverbial moths drawn to ‘flames’ might make up the majority of night-flyers, sizable numbers of beetles and cockroaches are also pulled in to structures due to lighting issues. It’s not enough to perform the standard exclusion measures because even perfect door sweeps won’t keep insects out when your customers continually trigger doors to open. Take the next step and evaluate your lighting set-up as part of your integrated pest management program.


Before deciding on any potential lighting changes, whether taken to reduce pests or not, it’s recommended to consult with your pest management provider. Even minor changes to light placements or bulb types can have dramatic effects on their attractiveness to insects.

The simplest way to reduce pest attractiveness is to use ‘warm’ lights like sodium-vapor or halogen lightbulbs on the exterior, or in lights that are visible from the exterior. These bulbs give light that is far less attractive to night-flying insects than fluorescent, or especially, mercury-vapor. LED lights are increasing in popularity and may give off warm or cool light, depending on your selection. Insect respond only to the wavelengths of light, so always choose a warmer (think yellow or orange) LED.

Another recommendation, though more complex, is to switch to an indirect lighting scheme in which the lights illuminating your storefront aren’t mounted on the store itself. Insects are highly attracted to the source of the light and much less so to where it’s cast. Mounted spotlights in a parking lot that illuminate your store will pull the bugs away from your doors while still keeping things bright.

If you have a vestibule, installing a fan to blow out toward doors as they open can help reduce insects from flying inside your store. If installed properly, fans can also be very effective in preventing day-flying insects like flies, bees, and wasps, from making it indoors.

Depending on your store’s layout, there might be an opportunity to install insect light traps (ILT) to pull in any flying insects already inside. ILTs come in all shapes and sizes and many models are designed to disguise their intent in retail settings. If you use an ILT, make sure that the light it emits is not visible from the outside or it will end up doing more harm than good.


A lighting set-up that is less attractive to insects will yield benefits almost immediately. Your customers will not be confronted with pests that could sour their shopping experience and, potentially, their impression of your brand. Store employees will be thankful for being spared from shooing crickets and June bugs out the back door while reassuring customers that, “This never happens!”


Numerous research papers have shown the attractiveness of insects to different types of light and lighting conditions. The science is sound and available for you to use to your advantage. There may be initial costs to reduce your storefront’s attractiveness to night-flying pests as LED lightbulbs are slightly more expensive, though the gap continues to narrow. A switch from fluorescent or mercury vapor to a ‘warm’ LED results in lower lifetime costs due to a longer lifespan, decreased maintenance needs, and decreased pest attractiveness in both light and heat emitted. But more importantly, making the best lighting choices brings peace of mind and protection against your brand becoming a viral video for all the wrong reasons.