Study: Colors that attract and repel mosquitoes


August 18, 2022

Yellow fever mosquito (A. aegypti) PHOTO: ISTOCK.COM/TEPTONG

Yellow fever mosquito (A. aegypti) PHOTO: ISTOCK.COM/TEPTONG

Mosquitoes are pretty much unavoidable throughout the summer months, but what if certain colors we wear deterred mosquitoes?

A team of researchers at the University of Washington studied how the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) responds to color and found that some mosquitoes prefer some colors over others. This color preference only exists in the presence of carbon dioxide, which we exhale when we breathe.

To see what colors they were attracted to, researchers built a test chamber and filled it with regular filtered air and mosquitoes, according to Reader’s Digest. They then pumped carbon dioxide and recorded mosquito reactions to different-colored objects placed in the chamber.

“One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘What can I do to stop mosquitoes from biting me?’” said Dr. Jeff Riffell, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Washington.

According to the study findings, color shows potential to help in the fight, both in clothing and in developing new mosquito-fighting technologies.

In a study published in February, it found that mosquitoes favored red, orange, black and cyan, which is the color between green and blue on the visible light spectrum.

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.

What colors repel mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes in the study did not like blue, green, violet and white. While the results are promising, it’s unlikely that wearing these colors as a stand-alone defense is sufficient to avoid bites this summer, said David Price, ACE, director of technical services at Mosquito Joe.

Here are the colors mosquitoes avoided:

  • Blue was unpopular with mosquitoes in the study, although how dark the color is plays a part. Navy blue absorbs heat, which usually attracts mosquitoes. Wearing lighter shades will help to reflect heat.
  • Green did not attract mosquitoes, according to the study. To test it, researchers offered human hands to the insects, held outside of the chamber but visible to the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes showed interest in bare hands, but flew past the hand when it was wearing a green glove.
  • Violet has the shortest wavelength of any color on the visible light spectrum so it’s not surprising that mosquitoes didn’t care for it, given their love of the long-wavelength red and orange hues of skin.
  • White was the control object for the study, which means researchers paired every color in the test chamber with a white companion object. Even with carbon dioxide in the test chamber, mosquitoes avoided the white object when faced with colors they preferred.

Are you ready to update your late-summer wardrobe for mosquito control and prevention?


About the Author

Ellen Wagner is a former digital editor for PMP magazine.

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