Dress accordingly: Mosquitoes attracted to certain colors more than others, study finds

New study examines what colors hungry mosquitoes seek out

Mosquito (Image by Emphyrio from Pixabay)

You spray repellant, you light a citronella candle, you sit so close to the bonfire that anything within a six-inch radius of you is likely to fry -- and yet, you wake up to itchy bumps on your arms and legs.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Mosquitoes are the nuisance of the summer, and they seem to be out with a vengeance already.

Insect repellants, especially those with high amounts of deet, have been recommended by experts as one of the best ways to keep the mosquitoes away. But new research shows there may be another way to protect ourselves from the flying menaces: by changing the way we dress.

Related: Mosquitoes are buzzing around Michigan: Here’s how to protect yourself from bites, diseases

According to a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington, mosquitoes are particularly attracted to certain colors, and are likely to ignore other colors.

Researchers studied the behavior of a common mosquito species while the insects were hungry. Knowing that mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that humans exhale, researchers examined mosquitoes’ interest in certain colors, both while priming them with a spritz of CO2, and without priming them at all.

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

In general, the study found that if mosquitoes weren’t primed with a carbon dioxide spritz, they weren’t attracted to the colored dot at the bottom of the chamber, no matter what the color was.

When primed with the scent of carbon dioxide, mosquitoes would fly toward the colored dot if it was red, orange, cyan or black. However, even after being primed with carbon dioxide, hungry mosquitoes still “continued to ignore the dot if it was green, blue or purple in color,” the university said.

Colors mosquitoes seem to prefer:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Cyan
  • Black

Colors mosquitoes tend to ignore:

  • Green
  • Purple
  • Blue
  • White

Click here to learn more about the study.

While wearing colors that mosquitoes aren’t particularly attracted to may help you stay off their radar, humans do face a significant problem: Human skin, regardless of the overall pigmentation, tends to emit a strong red/orange appearance to a mosquito, researchers said. And that’s partially why they’re drawn to us.

So, if you’re spending time outdoors this summer, it may be a good idea to cover any exposed skin, especially in green, purple, blue or white clothing.

Experts say that human breath, sweat and the temperature of skin are also factors that attract mosquitoes to us.

Related: Summer bugs in Michigan: How to protect yourself from mosquitoes, ticks, wasps, more


About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.