Watch CBS News

Hate mosquito bites? New research suggests wearing certain colors could make you a target

An experiment to reduce the mosquito population
An experiment to reduce the mosquito population 06:08

Mosquito bites are an unfortunate inevitability of summertime — or are they? Scientists recently found that mosquitos are more attracted to some colors than others, which could potentially prove useful to those trying to avoid the itchy bites. 

The study, which was published Friday, found that after a common type of mosquitos smelled CO2 — the gas humans breathe out — they decided to land on some colored dots but ignored others. 

"Imagine you're on a sidewalk and you smell pie crust and cinnamon," senior author Jeffrey Riffell, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, said in a press release announcing the study's findings. "That's probably a sign that there's a bakery nearby, and you might start looking around for it. Here, we started to learn what visual elements that mosquitoes are looking for after smelling their own version of a bakery."

The research team put different colored dots at the bottom of a chamber and sprayed them with CO2. (Without the CO2, mosquitos ignored every dot.) They found that mosquitos were drawn most to red, orange, black, and cyan. 

New research shows that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are attracted to specific colors, including red. Kiley Riffell

They also found that mosquitos ignored green, purple, blue and white. When a researcher inserted their hand into the chamber wearing a green glove, mosquitos ignored it, even when it was sprayed with CO2. 

Unfortunately, avoiding mosquitoes isn't as easy as choosing the right color of clothes. Human skin emits a vivid red-orange "signal" to mosquitoes, the researchers said, making it hard to hide completely. 

"I used to say there are three major cues that attract mosquitoes: your breath, your sweat and the temperature of your skin," Riffell said. "We found a fourth cue: the color red, which can not only be found on your clothes, but is also found in everyone's skin. The shade of your skin doesn't matter, we are all giving off a strong red signature." 

While the research found that the mosquitoes appeared to prefer certain colors, it did not measure whether wearing colors like green or purple would help stave off the critters. But Riffel said wearing clothes that avoid the most attractive colors "could" prove to be another way to reduce bites. 

The researchers also hope that their findings can help design better repellants, bug traps, and other ways to repel the biting bugs. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.