Mosquitoes can smell danger

They can be taught to avoid potential peril

Scientists have known for a while that different mosquito species have different prey preferences and can locate their favourite food sources from their scent. New research has now revealed that the insects’ abilities don’t stop there – they can smell which hosts to avoid.


Individual female yellow fever mosquitoes were placed in Y-shaped containers, with one arm containing human scent and the other containing an oil solution – unsurprisingly, they headed towards the smell of human. Next, researchers triggered a vibration every time the mosquitoes made a move for the human scent, to simulate someone attempting to swat them away. After several repetitions of this, the insects became less keen for the potential blood meal and were reluctant to venture down the arm of the chamber.


This ability to learn means that we might just be able to stop mosquitoes from bugging us by continuing to swat at them. In theory, they’ll associate the scent of a persistent swatter with danger and buzz off in search of alternative food sources.


Image: jentavery/flickr