Study find certain colors attract mosquitoes


February 24, 2022

Photo: dimarik/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: dimarik/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

A new study published in Nature Communications found that the colors people wear can play a role in how attractive they are to mosquitoes.

Researchers from the University of Washington tracked the behavior of female yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti)  mosquitoes when they were given different types of visual and scent cues. The mosquitoes were put into small test chambers and exposed them to different things, such as a colored dot or a person’s hand.

Mosquitoes find food by detecting carbon dioxide from a person’s breath, which prompts them to scan for certain colors and visual patterns that could indicate food.

Where there was no odor in the rest chambers, mosquitoes ignored the  colored dot, not matter what color it was. When researchers sprayed carbon dioxide in the chamber, however, the mosquitoes were most attracted to the colors red, orange, black and cyan (a blue-green shade). Dot colors that the mosquitoes ignored were green, blue and purple.

The study did not say why mosquitoes were attracted to certain colors. However, a theory is that red is one of the shades mosquitoes see when looking at human skin, according to Yahoo Life.

“When light interacts with human skin, regardless of skin pigmentation, it reflects a reddish color,” Dr. Nancy Troyano, a board-certified entomologist and director of operations education and training with Ehrlich Pest Control, told Yahoo Life. “Therefore the color red may be one of several cues that mosquitoes use to help them to locate their host.”

It can also be assumed mosquitoes are attracted the color red since it is the color of blood, but Timothy Best, ACE, BCE, technical manager at Terminix, told Yahoo Life that it’s “unlikely.”

As for the colors of orange, black and cyan, those colors tend to be darker, which mosquitoes like, Best said.

“Light colors are perceived as a threat to mosquitoes, which is why many species avoid biting in direct sunlight,” Best said.

Although mosquitoes are attracted to certain colors, the researchers said, it doesn’t mean to avoid wearing certain colors during mosquito season.

Mosquitoes are attracted to people for a combination of several factors, including sweat, carbon dioxide, heat and visual cues. However, if going to an area with lots of mosquitoes, people should stick to lighter colors.

“Dark colors stand out to mosquitoes, whereas light colors blend in,” Best told Yahoo Life. “People should consider lighter colors as an additional means of possibly reducing bites.”


About the Author

Ellen Wagner is a former digital editor for PMP magazine.

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