Seeing Red

Olé, Mosquito! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The sun is shining, birds are singing, and … SMACK! MOSQUITOES are buzzing! Why do these pesky bloodsuckers find us SO attractive?

Enter Diego Alonso San Alberto at the University of Washington and colleagues. 

They put over one million mosquitos in a wind tunnel. Then, they periodically released CO2 — which mimics human breath.The bugs were also presented with paper circles in a variety of colors. Finally, they followed the mosquitos’ movement using a 3D tracking system. 

Results? When they smelled the CO2, the mosquitos started hunting for food – and headed for the circles! They were especially attracted to the circles colored red, orange, and cyan. And THESE colors are the undertones of human skin! 

It’s hard to control our breath, or disguise the red hues in our skin. But we CAN control what we wear! Leave the red clothing at home to avoid mosquito bites … 

AND to fend off attacks from any bulls loose in the streets! Toro, toro!

Reference: San Alberto, D. A., Rusch, C., Zhan, Y., Straw, A. D., Montell, C., & Riffell, J. A. (2021). The olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and colors in mosquitoes. bioRxiv.