Clothing Colors That Help You Avoid Mosquito Bites During Summer


Come summer season, you prepare for all the activities on the itinerary. Along with all the fun comes the mosquitos. This is something that goes hand-in-hand with summer, but there is research that you can finally use the moment you have to deal with these tiny insects. You have to be extra vigilant when you’re especially prone to mosquito bites; what you wear can ultimately save you.

New research was made and this was performed by scientists at the University of Washington. They found that a species of common mosquito is attracted to certain colors. They also found that these ignored the cooler shades of green, purple, blue, and white.

There’s also the opposite side of the color spectrum where the human skin is found as it emits a relatively potent red-orange signal for the mosquitoes. These two colors are the ones that attract the bugs most.

“Mosquitoes appear to use odors to help them distinguish what is nearby, like a host to bite,” Jeffrey Riffell, a UW professor of biology, said. “When they smell specific compounds, like CO2 from our breath, that scent stimulates the eyes to scan for specific colors and other visual patterns… and head to them.”

“I used to say there are three major cues that attract mosquitoes: your breath, your sweat and the temperature of your skin,” said Riffell. He is also a senior author on the paper. “In this study, we found a fourth cue: the color red, which can not only be found on your clothes, but is also found in everyone’s skin. The shade of your skin doesn’t matter, we are all giving off a strong red signature. Wearing clothes that avoid those colors, could be another way to prevent a mosquito biting.”

In order to find out more, the researchers observed and monitored individual mosquitoes that were placed in test chambers. They where they sprayed certain odors and presented different types of visual patterns. Such patterns were colored dots, human hands, or gloved hands.

Black Should be Used During Winter

The study was done without the use of any odor stimulus. With just the patterns, mosquitoes didn’t really pay much attention to the dot found at the bottom of the chamber. The color didn’t make a difference. They then added a spritz of CO2 into the chamber. The insects still ignored the dot. Whether it was green, blue or purple, it made no difference. However, if it was red, orange, or black, the mosquitoes went for it. Oddly enough, the color cyan was also attractive even when this was between green and blue on the color wheel.

Humans are unable to detect the scent of CO2, this is what we exhale. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are able to do so. Past research was also performed by Riffell’s team and these showed that smelling CO2 boosts the activity level of the female mosquitoes. The moment this is in the atmosphere, they begin searching the place. They presumably assume that a host is near. The colored-dot experiments showed that after the insects smelled CO2, the eyes opted for certain wavelengths found in the visual spectrum. This may be similar to what might happen when people smell something delicious or pleasant in the air.

“Imagine you’re on a sidewalk and you smell pie crust and cinnamon,” said Riffell. “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 that mosquitoes are looking for after smelling their own version of a bakery.”

People oftentimes have what they call the “true color” vision: We are able to see the different wavelengths of light as distinct colors. This means that 650 nanometers shows up as red, 450 nanometer as blue. The researchers are still unsure of how mosquitoes perceive colors. They may see the same way we do. As for the colors the mosquitoes prefer the smell of CO2 are orange, red and black. These emit the longer wavelengths of light. Human skin, no matter what the pigmentation, also gives off a long-wavelength signal that is in the red-orange range.

Riffell’s team also repeated the chamber experiments using the human skintone pigmentation cards. At times, they opted for the researcher’s bare hand. The mosquitoes immediately flew toward the visual stimulus, but this happened only once CO2 was sprayed into the chamber they were in. If they made use of filters to eliminate the long-wavelength signals, or when the human used a green-colored glove, the CO2-primed mosquitoes weren’t that attracted to the stimulus.

Riffell says that the knowledge of colors that attract hungry mosquitoes (which do not), may be extremely helpful, especially when it comes to coming up with better repellant designs, traps, and other ways to make sure that these mosquitoes are kept out.

The they wrote was published Feb. 4 in Nature Communications. They talked about how the team used female yellow fever mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti. This type is oftentimes found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions. These can bring diseases such as dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, and Zika with them. And as with all species of mossies, only the females drink human blood.

Further research still needs to be done in order for them to know if other species may also have different color preferences, based on the host they like most. Discoveries such as these may add new knowledge to mosquito control such as color.