Do Mosquitoes See Colors and Does It Matter If They Do?

By: Captain Stan The Mosquito Man | May 2022 Scientists have long tried to figure out if mosquitoes actually see (and react) to colors and if so, what does it really mean? Does it influence their behavior? Results of many studies have been mixed. We know that the #1 attractant to a hungry, blood-seeking female mosquito is carbon dioxide. It is also believed that warmth and colors may be influential in host selection.

A recent study again took a look at the impact of colors. Briefly, the behavior of three different species were studied, using a small wind tunnel, multiple cameras, and other equipment. Two colored spots, one being a white control, were placed on the floor of the wind tunnel. Different colors were tested. Then, 50 mated, unfed females of each species (the species were tested separately) were released in the tunnel. What happened? The mosquitoes ignored the colored spots. After one hour, however, carbon dioxide was introduced into the tunnel and the mosquitoes then started exploring the spots! The colors found to be most attractive were red and black; those least attractive were blue, green. and violet. A second set of experiments, similar to the first were then done. This time, instead of colored spots, spots of different human skin tones were used. Results showed that mosquitoes were somewhat attracted to the different skin tones but showed no preference. The authors concluded, among other things, that contrast (light vs. dark) was more important for mosquito attraction than actual colors. Interpretation of results such as these, acquired in a laboratory setting with controlled conditions, are difficult to extrapolate to what is actually happening in nature. The general consensus, at least for now, is that mosquitoes SEE colors, at least some, but how this impacts their behaviors is still to be determined.

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