Bug racket zappers are shaped like small tennis rackets, but they're not just for swatting. Powered by a couple of batteries, they deliver an electric shock that's designed to kill any bugs that come in contact with the paddle. You just press the button on the handle, wave the racket against any sort of flying bug, and zap! it's dead. Pretty nifty, huh?
There are several models in different price ranges, but all work on the same principal. The racket has a metal mesh that's charged by the batteries in the handle when you press the button. When the bug touches the mesh, the electrical charge does the rest. They're designed to give you a no-chemical, no swatting method of killing any kind of flying pests.
Too good to be true? Well, they're not perfect, but the basic idea works. I'll discuss some of the pros and cons below.
One main benefit, as you can guess, is that you don't need to use any toxic chemicals in the air you breathe or on your skin. Also, unlike a fly swatter, they kill bugs in flight, so you don't need to wait for a bug to land. That makes rackets great for tackling those annoying mosquitoes buzzing around your head or those gnats hovering in front of your face. Another benefit is that they'll take care of any kind of bug they come in contact with, so you can use one to get rid of a mosquito, then zap the wasp that's headed for your can of pop without switching to a different method of attack.
So are they the ultimate back-yard or campground bug solution? Well, they're pretty useful, but racket zappers do have some negatives to take into consideration.
But keep in mind...
Don't think of them as swatters. In fact, they're generally made of hard, brittle plastic, rather than the flexible plastic of a fly swatter, so a good whack against a hard surface can crack them. Curb the urge to do that! If you want to get rid of a bug that has landed, scare it into the air, then wave the racket against it, or lay the racket over it and let it fly up against the racket.
Don't think of them as kids' toys, either. Some have a "dead" screen on either side of the electrified surface, while others don't, but you can still get a good shock from either kind if you touch the charged surface. You have to hold the button on the handle to activate the screen, so they shouldn't shock you if the button isn't pressed, but some use a capacitor that may hold a charge longer. Treat them as a serious bug-killing tool, and keep them away from children and pets. There are youtube videos of folks shocking themselves on purpose and it doesn't kill them, but it doesn't look like a really fun thing.
Also, the electrical spark could ignite flammable fumes, so don't use them around lighter fluid, while spraying hairspray, while pouring gas in the lawnmower, or anyplace else that you wouldn't want an open flame.
A useful bug-killing tool
But I don't want to sound too negative. If you get a racket that has enough charge to give a good bug-killing shock, and treat it like a serious pest-control tool rather than a fancy flyswatter, it can be a good way to kill annoying flying insects indoors or outdoors, from backyard mosquitoes to wasps to houseflies.
Executioner Pro--lots of zapping power
The Executioner Pro uses two C batteries to deliver a solid shock that's more likely to kill bugs dead the first time, compared to weaker rackets using AA batteries. The Executioner Pro is also bigger than some others, with a 10 1/2" by 8" head and a total 22" long including the handle, so bugs are easier to contact. If you're looking for a small, maneuverable, lightweight racket, this isn't it, but if you're looking for one that has a large surface that delivers a reliable bug-killing zap, this is the one.
One main difference between this racket and others is that there are no unelectrified screens on either side of the bug-killing surface. This makes it more reliable, because bugs get zapped the instant you contact them, but you will want to avoid touching the surface when the button is pressed, or you'll get an ouchy shock too. The button that turns on the charge turns off as soon as you stop pressing it, so that makes avoiding accidental shocks easier.
Like all racket zappers, this one isn't made for swatting, so it will break if hit hard against a surface, but you shouldn't need to swat, with its power. You can tell it's ready to zap when you press the button, by the LED light that comes on and by the slight whining sound it makes, and there's no mistaking the snap and flash when a bug touches it. Most reviews seem to indicate it's reliable, but it does come with a one-year warranty.
The same English company also makes a smaller, lower-charged model, called just the Executioner (no "Pro" in the name), if you're looking for something more compact with not quite so much zap to it.
"This is smaller than a tennis racket but really packs a punch. Satisfying zzzap and flash when it nukes a bug. You get what you pay for and I bought this to replace a cheaper model that died after a month. This one is still going strong and just feels more durable, and gives a bigger shock. The trick is not to swing too fast. A gentle motion is all it takes, and when a mosquito hits the wires, it's dead."
"A neighbor had the regular Executioner model and I wanted one so I bought the "pro," not realizing it was different. Now my neighbor is jealous. This is bigger, sturdier, and really packs a whallop. Mosquitoes just get vaporized. I carry it when walking where there are pockets of mosquitoes and gnats in the evening. A wave of the hand when I walk into a cloud of them and they're cleared out."
"The wires aren't protected at all, so don't let kids play with it like a toy. Feels heavy and well made, and kills all but the biggest bugs with one zap, and a second zap finishes off the bigger ones."
Koolatron Lentek Biteshield offers smaller zap at a budget price
This racket is typical of the zappers which use two AA batteries. There's not necessarily a loud snap and flash when a bug contacts the screen, and some folks complain that the zap isn't strong enough to kill all bugs on the first try, so it may just stun them for a moment, leaving them to fly away in a few seconds. Otherwise, the operation is similar: press the button and wave the paddle against an insect to kill it. Don't swat, because this racket is at least as brittle and breakable as the Executioner, and probably more so!
The Biteshield racket has a non-charged screen on either side of the charged one, which gives some protection from shocking yourself or anyone else that the paddle comes in contact with while the button is pressed, but you still definitely need to keep it away from kids and not treat it as a toy. The protective screens can also make it a bit more difficult for insects to contact the live wires too, especially larger ones like wasps, and combined with the lesser charge, the success rate of killing bugs may be lower than with the Executioner Pro. The smaller batteries make it lighter to handle, though.
A few users have complained the racket either stops operating after a short while, or arrives not working, so make sure there's a return or exchange policy, just in case.
"The plastic doesn't seem real sturdy, but for the price, it works. The screen means it doesn't shock bigger bugs like moths, but for flies and mosquitoes, it knocks them down."
"I was surprised how long the batteries last. It's been half the summer and it's still going on the original pair. Only thing I didn't like was sometimes dead bugs get stuck in between the screen layers, but they're not difficult to knock out. Sometimes it stuns bugs rather than killing them, and they'll fall but if you don't step on them, they'll fly away. Still easier to use than a fly swatter, nice big surface area to the paddle (about ping pong size) and light weight to hold. Word of caution: even when the button isn't pressed and the light's off, the screen must hold a charge somehow. I got a shock accidentally leaning on the screen right after setting it down."
"Had to tape the battery cover closed. Gnats fly right through the mesh, and even bigger insects can manage to get through without a strong enough shock to kill them. Great idea but this is a cheap product."
"Stopped working after about three weeks."
Photos courtesy of Amazon.