Like your outfit? Mosquitoes might too

Everyone wants to look good, but your great outfit might also be what draws mosquitoes to you.

Researchers at the University of Washington said one of the things that draws mosquitoes is color. Some colors stand out to them more than others.

“Mosquitoes like dark contrasting objects,” said Adam Blake, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington. “What the recent paper that came out of the lab kind of showed is that it’s also some of the longer wavelength colors. So that’s your oranges, your reds are also really attractive to mosquitoes.”

In terms of the clothes you should wear out in the backyard, “I think light colors are going to be your best friends. Whites, tans, really anything that’s not really dark,” Blake said.

Black would be the worst color to wear, he said.

That doesn’t mean you should buy a bunch of whites and khakis so you can ditch the bug spray.

“They’re really clever. They’ve been doing this for a long time. Millions and millions of years,” said Blake. “They have a bunch of redundant systems. They’re able to pick up on your carbon dioxide, the heat from your breath … smelly feet … so even with the light colors, they still have all of these redundant systems to fall back on. So it’s really hard to completely avoid them.”

Your friend wearing red and black might get bitten before you do.

“But if there’s enough of them around, they’re probably eventually going to get to you too,” Blake said.

Ultimately, the olfactory compounds coming off your body will also either help you or let mosquitoes know there’s a buffet of blood just waiting for them under your skin, more than even the clothes you wear. They’ll just help a little bit.

What’s the surest way to keep mosquitoes away?

“Probably your best bet is a mosquito repellent with DEET in it,” Blake said. “I’m sorry I can’t give you much better news. We’re working on it. We’re looking for some sort of silver bullet but yeah, mosquitoes, they’ve been at this a long time. So they’re really good at it.”

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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