Seeing red: New research shows mosquitoes are drawn to certain colors we wear

Mosquitoes were found to be more attracted to colors like red, orange and black

SEATTLE, Wa. – It’s that time of year when the mercury rises, and mosquitoes are thirsty. New research from the University of Washington shows that the colors we wear can change a mosquito’s drinking habits.

Dr. Jeff Riffell is a professor at the University of Washington. He studies mosquitoes and, more importantly, “How they sense their environment and more specifically how they sense us, which they use as a blood source.”

He says this information is crucial. An estimated 1 billion people per year are impacted by diseases that mosquitoes carry.

“We leverage that information to develop traps or lures to get them away from homes and make repellants to cause them to avoid us.”

There are four major cues that decide whether a mosquito wants to bite us. These are our breath, our sweat, our skin temperature and lastly, Riffell tells us, “Mosquitoes became very attracted to very specific colors.”

Before ever seeing the colors we emit or wear, Riffell says they smell the carbon dioxide we breathe. He compares this to when we smell something delicious.

“You smell something good like a bakery or a pie shop, and then you immediately start looking for that bakery. The mosquitoes are doing the exact same thing.”

While you can’t change your skin’s natural tone to ward off a mosquito, you can alter everything from your shade of makeup to the clothes you wear.

Riffell suggests, “By changing what color clothes you wear can also impact your attractiveness to these mosquitoes.”

Mosquitoes are especially drawn to colors like red, orange and black. Instead, he says to go for colors they don’t like. These include white, green or different shades of blue.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the species of mosquitoes Riffell researches is very likely to live and reproduce in our region.

Map of a mosquito's likelihood to live and reproduce in the U.S. according to the CDC (2017) (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.