Mosquitoes are not all created equal. Some mosquitoes prefer animals, while some seek out human hosts. There are also differences among humans, with some appearing much more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Of course, we know this intuitively. Some people just seem to get eaten alive, while others go mostly unscathed. But figuring out precisely why some mosquitoes prefer a particular species or individual is an ongoing field of research and one that is not yet fully understood. However, we are getting closer through the power of pantyhose.
Researchers Want to Know Why Some Mosquitoes Prefer Humans
Researchers at Rockefeller University wanted to find out why some mosquitoes prefer human blood to animal blood. Specifically, they looked at two species found in Rabai, Kenya. Although the species are closely related and share the same ecosystem, they do not share a preference for blood hosts. Aedes aegypti formosus (black mosquitoes) seemed to prefer animal hosts. The brown-bodied Aedes aegypti aegypti, on the other hand, seem to prefer humans.
Researchers at Rockefeller University collected samples of both species and brought them back to the lab. They confirmed that even in the lab, without other environmental stimuli, the preferences remained the same. Then they began a five-year process of breeding to determine what genetic difference seemed to affect the behavior. What they found was that the mosquitoes who prefer human blood had a much more highly expressed odor-receptor gene, Or4.
Exactly Which Odor Makes Humans Unique
The next step was to determine what odor Or4 was detecting. And that’s where things got a bit strange. The researchers had some human guinea pigs and some actual guinea pigs don pantyhose for 24 hours. The pantyhose soaked up the body odor of the humans and the guinea pigs. A machine then sorted out each individual chemical in the dirty pantyhose. One compound called sulcatone was present only in the stockings worn by humans. So it seemed that sulcatone was a key to attracting some mosquitoes to humans.
But the researchers noted that sulcatone alone couldn’t fully explain the preference. That’s what they found out when they took a little human-flavored sulcatone and rubbed it on the unsuspecting guinea pigs. It seems that sulcatone-soaked guinea pigs were still not particularly attractive to the brown-bodied mosquitoes. So, despite dressing up guinea pigs in pantyhose and dousing them in human odor chemicals, the question is still not entirely settled. We know that Or4 plays a role, but we’re not exactly sure how or why.
Why Mosquitoes Prefer Some Yards to Others
While we may not fully understand why some mosquitoes prefer humans, Mr. Mister has a pretty good idea of why they prefer some yards over others. It’s actually quite simple. The best way to make your yard inhospitable to mosquitoes is with Mr. Mister’s ClearZone™ Mosquito Misting Service. We are so confident that we can keep mosquitoes out of your yard that we will return for a free treatment if you notice mosquitoes between our regular visits. So while we can’t tell you how to make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes, we can certainly keep mosquitoes away from you at home. Just contact us for a free quote to get started today!