How These Four Colors Help You Avoid Mosquito Bites
Summer's here, and that means mosquitoes. Can color help in the fight against these buzzing pests? A team of researchers says yes.
Mosquitoes are a constant, irritating companion in warm weather. I have one buzzing around me right this minute, mocking my ineffective screen door. Adding injury to insult, she’s bitten me three times (male mosquitoes don’t bite).
Here in Texas, we can get mosquitoes year round, but anywhere it gets above 50 degrees F is fair game for these pesky disease vectors. Sometimes it feels like all the screens, sprays and gadgets deployed against them are half-measures at best.
What if we could deter mosquitoes with what we wear? And, I don’t mean long sleeves. A team of researchers studied how the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) responds to color, and it turns out mosquitoes prefer some colors and are turned off by others. This color preference, however, is only while in the presence of carbon dioxide (CO2), which we exhale when we breathe.
Lead study author Jeff Riffell says: “One of the most common questions I’m asked is ‘What can I do to stop mosquitoes from biting me?'” According to the study findings, color shows remarkable potential to help in the fight, both in clothing and in developing new mosquito-fighting technologies.
What Colors Attract Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes in the study loved red, orange, black and cyan, which is the color between green and blue on the visible light spectrum. How did they measure this? Researchers built a sophisticated test chamber and filled it with regular filtered air (and mosquitoes). Then they pumped in CO2, and recorded mosquito reactions to colored objects placed within the test chamber.
Here are the big winners, from the mosquito’s perspective:
Red was a huge hit with the mosquitoes, so it won’t surprise you to learn that our skin gives off a red hue. It doesn’t matter what skin tone or shade, either. To a mosquito, everyone looks like a tasty red treat.
Mosquitoes responded to long-wavelength colors, and like red, orange fits the bill. When researchers used filters to remove long-wavelength colors from the chamber, mosquitoes weren’t interested, even when tested with human hands.
Black is a well-known mosquito magnet. Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors and high contrast. In 1940, researchers demonstrated that mosquitoes can follow a black line on a white background, even if the background is moving. Black doesn’t have a wavelength because technically it’s not a color, but it absorbs heat, which mosquitoes love.
Mosquitoes flew right to the cyan object in the study, even though on the visible light spectrum, cyan is between blue and green, which mosquitoes showed no preference for. But mosquitoes’ ability to discern between similar colors shows promise for further research.
What Colors Repel Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes in the study did not like blue, green, violet and white. While promising, it’s unlikely wearing these colors as a stand-alone defense is sufficient to avoid bites this summer, says Director of Technical Services at Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly Company, David Price ACE. In addition, wear insect repellant to mask the CO2 and other odors our bodies give off.
Here are colors mosquitoes avoid:
Blue was unpopular with mosquitoes in the study, although how dark the color is plays a part. Navy blue, for example, absorbs heat, which attracts mosquitoes. Wear lighter shades to reflect heat, says Price.
Researchers confirmed results of the color experiments by offering the bugs human hands held outside of the chamber but visible to the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes showed interest in bare hands, but when the researchers wore green gloves mosquitoes flew right on by.
Violet has the shortest wavelength of any color on the visible light spectrum, so it’s not surprising that mosquitoes didn’t care for it, given their love of the long-wavelength red and orange hues of our skin.
White was the control object, which means researchers paired every color in the test chamber with a white object for comparison. Even with CO2 in the test chamber, mosquitoes avoided the white object when faced with colors they preferred.
More Ways To Prevent Mosquito Bites
Price says these tips will help reduce mosquito populations. And if mosquitoes are still driving you crazy this summer, contact a professional, like those at Mosquito Joe, to assess your property and get those buzzing beasts under control.
- Regularly empty standing water from flower pots, birdbaths, fountains and anywhere else water tends to collect;
- Drill holes in tire swings, trash cans and recycling bins to allow water to drain. Check gutters for clogs;
- Repair leaky outdoor faucets. Mosquitos lay eggs in water, and they don’t need much;
- Cut grass short, trim shrubs and keep lawns weed-free. Mosquitoes like to rest in shady spots;
- Use a fan when gathering outside on your patio. Mosquitoes aren’t strong flyers and don’t like the air movement;
- Don’t overwater your lawn, and fill in any low areas where water can pool.