New Study Indicates That These Are Mosquitoes’ Favorite Colors
Harness this new information to keep mosquitoes at bay this summer.
Mosquitoes are an undeniable nuisance, and mosquito bites also can be dangerous by spreading diseases like malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. Each year, mosquito-borne illnesses infect between 300 and 500 million people per year and result in more than 1 million deaths worldwide.
Older research showed that mosquitoes are attracted to human breath, sweat, and skin temperature; now, a new study shows that color also plays a major role in mosquito behavior. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and published in Nature Communications, found mosquitoes were most attracted to the colors red, orange, cyan, and sometimes black. Read on for a summary of the researchers’ findings and how this information can help inform what you wear and how you furnish your outdoor living space.
Scent and Color Can Attract Mosquitoes
The University of Washington study, published in February 2022 and titled “The olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and visible spectra in mosquitoes,” involved releasing mosquitoes into a controlled wind tunnel, where researchers could fully manage the visual and olfactory environment. This was one of the first comprehensive studies on the topic, with very little research previously available on mosquitoes’ color preferences.
Researchers had already established that mosquitoes’ senses are activated by the scent of carbon dioxide, which is emitted by humans when we exhale. Mosquitoes can detect the scent of CO2 from approximately 100 feet away. Once they detect the smell, their visual senses activate and begin to detect color.
The study found that mosquitoes were most attracted to four colors: red, orange, black, and cyan. The presence of these colors caused them to remain in an area longer. These colors have longer wavelengths, and colors with orange and red tones are present in human skin, which may be why mosquitoes are drawn to them. They’re also attracted to the color black in the presence of carbon dioxide, perhaps because of its contrast with light colors and signal of shady areas where they can rest. However, scientists are still trying to establish mosquitoes’ attraction to the color cyan, an aqua-toned blue.
Different Species Have Different Color Preferences
The study focused largely on one specific species of mosquito—Aedes aegypti—which is known for transmitting both Zika virus and yellow fever. In further tests, two other mosquito species—Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus—were shown to share the same attraction to red and orange, with the addition of violet as a favorite shade. The study also found that certain mosquito varieties may actually be deterred by some colors, including green, blue, and white.
Choosing Clothing to Repel Mosquitoes
Armed with this new information, people can dress strategically to avoid attracting mosquitoes. In mosquito-infested areas, it’s always best to cover up, wearing long sleeves and long pants to expose the least amount of skin possible. Considering mosquitoes’ visual attraction to human skin tones, this tip helps in more ways than one.
Using the new color-attraction information, you can choose your clothing accordingly, avoiding red, orange, black, and cyan to not attract mosquitoes. It’s best to wear colors like white, blue, and green, which aren’t known to attract any variety of mosquito. One of the study’s lead scientists, Jeffrey Riffell, told Newsweek, “We can make ourselves basically invisible to the mosquitoes by using these optical filters.”
Avoid These Colors in Your Outdoor Living Space
If you live in an area with a high mosquito population, it may be a constant struggle to keep them at bay. Luckily, the results of this study can actually inform how you furnish and decorate your outdoor space to detract these pests. Avoid using colors like red, orange, black, and cyan in your outdoor decor scheme, opting instead for colors like white, green, and blue for umbrellas, awnings, and seat cushions.
Mosquitoes don’t have great vision, so this rule is more important for larger items than it is for small decorative accents. When it comes to landscaping, plant orange and red flowers away from outdoor dining and seating areas to avoid attracting mosquitoes to the areas where you spend most of your time outdoors.