CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolinas have seen spring-like temperatures this week, which means mosquitoes might not be too far behind as the weather gets warm.
Do you find yourself the target of mosquitoes every time you step outside? A new theory says the pesky insects may be attracted to certain colors. So does what you wear really make a difference in a mosquito biting you?
Are mosquitoes attracted to certain colors?
- The paper "The olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and visible spectra in mosquitoes" published in Nature Communication
- Jeff Riffell, one of the authors of the paper, and a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington
- Dr. Michael Roe, a professor at NC State who studies Insect Toxicology
Yes, mosquitoes are attracted to certain colors
WHAT WE FOUND
Riffell said mosquitoes carry diseases that impact a billion people per year and cause the deaths of more than a million people per year. He said that’s why his team started this study.
“So we wanted to really take a close look and see, can we understand their vision a little bit more?" Riffell said. "And if we do understand their vision, can we actually utilize that in the future to control interventions and methods to prevent them from biting?"
Researchers found that mosquitoes are most attracted to the following colors: Black, aqua, red and orange.
Black is due to the environments they like to be in.
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"Mosquitoes really like dark black colors," Riffell said. "And what that might indicate is that they are really sensitive to desiccation or losing water. And so they want to find dark, shady areas to rest."
The reason they love the colors red and orange is that that’s what human skin looks like to them.
"What we found is that when we start looking at the dominant colors that we're reflecting from our skin, no matter what your skin tone or how dark or light you are, we are dominantly reflecting the orange and red from our skin," Riffell explained.
The reason for mosquitoes liking aqua is still a mystery.
“We could understand why they liked orange and red because it indicates a human host," he said. "But the aqua color is something we're still trying to figure out.”
The study also found mosquitoes are only attracted to certain colors when the presence of carbon dioxide is around. Because humans breathe that out, it then attracts the mosquitoes to us.
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“The only time they showed a preference is if they first detected or smelled the carbon dioxide from our breath," Riffell said. "And so what's happening is that mosquitoes, they first detect the carbon dioxide from our breath from like 100 feet away."
While mosquitoes are always going to be attracted to our skin due to the orange and red hues, try wearing purple or green clothing to try and keep them away, since they aren’t as attracted to those colors.
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