Sometimes, it might feel like you’re a mosquito magnet. These flying insects are remarkable hunters, and particularly during the summer months, being bitten by a mosquito might seem like a daily occurrence.
How do these irritating pests find you? They’re sneaky and stealthy, but can they see and do they use their vision to find their meals?
Mosquitoes have two compound eyes located on the sides of their heads. These eyes are covered with specialized lenses called ommatidia, which essentially function as individual eyes. Compound eyes are very sensitive to motion, and they allow the mosquito to see in multiple directions.
Mosquitoes also have simple photosensitive eyes called ocelli on the tops of their heads. These eyes detect changes in light.
How Do Mosquitoes Find Their Host?
So yes, mosquitoes can see, but it’s just one way these insects detect their hosts. According to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, mosquitoes can see their hosts when they’re about 5-10 meters (or about 16-32 feet) away.
So, what other signals attract mosquitoes, and what other methods do they use to find hosts? Here are just a few examples:
- Carbon dioxide – Perhaps more than sight, mosquitoes rely on smell to find hosts, and carbon dioxide is one of the most important signals mosquitoes use when searching for a blood meal. Mosquitoes have antennae and odor-sensing organs called palps. They are highly sensitive to the presence of carbon dioxide gas, which is produced by hosts as they exhale. It is thought that mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from more than 150 feet away, and this is often their first signal that a host is within range.
- Sweat and other scents – According to researchers at the University of California, Riverside, odors from perspiration can attract mosquitoes. Additionally, the insects may be lured by the lactic acid, uric acid and ammonia contained in sweat, as well as other scents such as perfumes and colognes.
- Body heat – Researchers at the California Institute of Technology also concluded that mosquitoes can pick up on a host’s body heat. The insects are typically able to detect the change in temperature at a distance of about 8 inches from the host. According to experiments, this is the final signal the mosquito uses to determine its host’s location.
The signals mosquitoes use to find hosts show that these insects are more sophisticated than most people have assumed and are able to rely on multiple sensory cues to locate meals.
How to Help Prevent Mosquitoes
Mosquito bites are an itchy nuisance, but in certain parts of the world, they can also pose a health risk as some mosquitoes can carry pathogens that may cause disease like West Nile.
There are a few steps you can take to help avoid mosquito bites when you’re out and about this summer, like:
- Wear light, loose clothing that leaves minimal amounts of skin exposed
- Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents
- Empty or remove sources of standing water
- Maintain your lawn
- Clean your gutters regularly
The nuisance of mosquitoes can keep you and your family from enjoying the outdoors. Mosquitoes breed quickly, laying up to 3,000 eggs in just a few weeks. If you suspect they’re breeding in your yard, contact the professionals at Terminix® to learn about our mosquito service.