While there are plenty of factors that go into how attractive you are to mosquitoes, new research has found the colors you're wearing definitely play a role.
That's the main takeaway from a new study published in the journal Nature Communications. For the study, researchers from the University of Washington tracked the behavior of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes when they were given different types of visual and scent1
cues. The researchers put the mosquitoes into small test chambers3
and exposed them to different things, like a colored dot or person's hand.
In case you're not familiar with how mosquitoes find food, they first detect that you're around by smelling carbon dioxide from your breath. That prompts them to scan for certain colors and visual patterns that could indicate food, the researchers explained.
When there was no odor like carbon dioxide in the test chambers, the mosquitos pretty much ignored the colored dot, not matter what hue4
it was. But once researchers sprayed carbon dioxide in the chamber2
, they flew toward dots that were red, orange, black, or cyan. Dots that were green, blue, or purple were ignored.
"Light colors are perceived as a threat to mosquitoes, which is why many species avoid biting in direct sunlight," entomologist Timothy Best says. "Mosquitoes are very susceptible5
to dying by dehydration6
, therefore light colors may instinctually represent danger and prompt avoidance. In contrast, darker colors may replicate7
shadows, which are more likely to absorb and retain heat, allowing mosquitoes to use their sophisticated antenna8
to locate a host."
If you have the option of wearing lighter9
or darker clothes when you know you'll be going into an area with lots of mosquitoes, Best recommends going with the lighter choice. "Dark colors stand out to mosquitoes, whereas light colors blend in." he says.