Considering how cold it is outside, you're probably not wondering how to avoid mosquito bites right now. But before you know it, the summer will be here — and a new study just came out with news you can definitely use when that time comes.
According to new research published in <a target="blank" href="http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)31617-2">Current Biology_, you can actually teach mosquitoes to avoid your scent — by swatting them. Though we probably don't think of mosquitoes as quick learners, the researchers say mosquitoes can indeed learn to associate a specific odor with an unpleasant mechanical shock (being swatted). And if that specific odor is coming from you, they're more likely to learn to avoid that scent the next time.
"Once mosquitoes learned odors in an aversive manner, those odors caused aversive responses on the same order as responses to DEET, which is one of the most effective mosquito repellents," said researcher Jeffrey Riffell, PhD. "Moreover, mosquitoes remember the trained odors for days."
Experts already knew that mosquitoes don't choose people to bite at random. If you've ever had the misfortune to get lots of mosquito bites, you probably also know of some luckier folks who rarely ever get bitten. Mosquitoes definitely prefer certain scents over others — and they're not shy about letting those preferred people know!
But it's comforting to know that if you're armed with the right repellent, along with some extra-skilled swatting hands, you can possibly have more success avoiding mosquito bites in the future.
"By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviors, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviors," Dr. Riffell says. "This could lead to more effective tools for mosquito control."
h/t Eureka Alert
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