Research Shows Mosquitoes Are Attracted To The Colour Red

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You might be able to hide from mosquitoes by avoiding color such as Orange, red, black and cyan new research shows. 

According to a paper published in the Nature Communications journals, after catching both visual and scent cues, the irritating mosquitoes scan the area for victims by locating certain colours: red, orange, black and cyan. The research suggested wearing shades of green, purple, blue and white.

University of Washington and senior author of the study, Jeffrey Riffell, a biologist, said in a statement

“Imagine you’re on a sidewalk and you smell pie crust and cinnamon,”. “That’s probably a sign that there’s a bakery nearby, and you might start looking around for it. Here, we started to learn what visual elements mosquitoes are looking for after smelling their own version of a bakery.”

The researchers tested how female Aedes aegypti mosquitos react to various colours when exposed to carbon dioxide – what we breathe out every time we exhale and mosquitoes are able to smell it. Females were chosen because, they are the ones who bite and drink up your precious blood, leaving you with dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya and Zika virus.

The team watched how the Aedes aegypti mosquitos react to stimuli such as coloured dots, in the absence of odours. Basically, they did not react. Then the scientists repeated the process but this time they added some CO2. In this instance, with synthetic human breath, the result showed the mosquitos were very much attracted to red, orange, black and cyan but didn’t bat an eye when it came to green, purple, blue and white.

It is important to point out that, mosquitoes do not see colour the way humans do, just as humans cannot see CO2. However, scientists found out that colours that attract mosquitoes  all have an objective commonality: longer wavelengths on the visible spectrum.

Riffell said:

“One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘What can I do to stop mosquitoes from biting me?'”  “I used to say there are three major cues that attract mosquitoes: your breath, your sweat and the temperature of your skin. In this study, we found a fourth cue: the colour red, which can not only be found on your clothes, but is also found in everyone’s skin.”

This confirms that Human skin, regardless of pigment, gives off long wavelengths similar to those of red-orange hues.

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@jane_stroebel?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Jane Stroebel</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/mosquito?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Jane Stroebel on Unsplash

When the research team repeated the controlled experiments with human skintone pigmentation cards — or a researcher’s exposed hand — mosquitoes again flew toward the visual stimulus only after CO2 was sprayed into the chamber. If the researchers used filters to remove long-wavelength signals, or had the researcher wear a green-colored glove, then CO2-primed mosquitoes no longer flew toward the stimulus.

Further evidence showed that Genetic disposition also affects female mosquitoes as another strain of mutant mosquitoes, with a change related to vision so they could no longer “see” long wavelengths of light, were more colour-blind in the presence of CO2.

Riffell added:

“These experiments lay out the first steps mosquitoes use to find hosts,”

More research is needed to determine how other visual and odour cues — such as skin secretions — help mosquitoes target potential hosts at close range. Other mosquito species may also have different color preferences, based on their preferred host species. But these new findings add a new layer to mosquito control: color.

So the next time you are packing for that summer vacation, maybe leave out the all black or bright red colours at home as part of your mosquito repellant measures.

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