Perhaps, the most annoying sound of summer is the buzzing of a mosquito hovering near you as it struggles to get close enough to draw blood. How to shake it off? Well, scientists are now closer to explaining how scent, sight and heat are working in tandem to lead these blood sucking parasites to humans.
According to new research published in the journal Current Biology, mosquitoes are attracted by the scent of CO2 — which is found in human breath. The insects can pick up the scent of CO2 from a distance of 10 to 50 meters.
Moving in closer, mosquitoes pick up on visual cues to find their target, an idea the researchers tested with a black spot on the floor of a wind tunnel. They can use sight to find humans from 5 to 15 meters. Finally, mosquitoes are attracted by the heat of the human body, which researchers confirmed with a heated glass panel that otherwise blended in with its surroundings. The insects can be drawn to heat from within a meter.
While scientists already knew that these three elements contributed to mosquitoes’ homing method, this is the first time they understand how all three parts work together. Interestingly, scientists have even suggested that complete eradication of mosquitoes would not have serious ecological consequences.
It’s always good to know thy enemy, and although more research is needed to determine how mosquitoes track us down, it’s never a bad idea to learn a little about these parasitic insects…
What are Mosquitoes? And how to avoid bites?
– The word “mosquito” (formed by mosca and diminutive ito) is Spanish for “little fly
– They compose the family Culicidae.
– Although a few species are harmless or even useful to humanity, the females of most species are ectoparasites, whose tube-like mouthparts – called a proboscis – pierce the hosts’ skin to consume blood.
– Though the loss of blood is seldom of any importance to the victim, the saliva of the mosquito often causes an irritating rash that is a serious nuisance.
– In passing from host to host, some transmit extremely harmful infections such as malaria, yellow fever, west nile virus, dengue fever, and filariasis.
– Insect repellents are applied on skin and give short-term protection against mosquito bites. The chemical DEET repels some mosquitoes and other insects.
– There are also electronic insect repellent devices which produce ultrasounds that were developed to keep away insects (and mosquitoes).