Frontal close-up of an yellow-fever mosquito sucking blood, known vector of zika virus, chikungunya, yellow fever and dengue.


Frontal close-up of an yellow-fever mosquito sucking blood, known vector of zika virus, chikungunya, yellow fever and dengue.

Photo by: Joao Paulo Burini

Joao Paulo Burini

Why You Can’t Escape a Mosquito

By: Discovery

Hiding the scent of human blood from mosquitoes is harder than scientists originally thought.

September 08, 2022

Mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths than any other creature. These bloodsuckers can transmit disease-causing viruses like Zika, dengue, and malaria.

In an effort to deter these pests, scientists have tried to block mosquitoes’ ability to smell. The idea was if you can block a mosquito from detecting the smell of human blood, they won’t be able to hunt us down. Unfortunately, all previous attempts have failed.

A new study shows this could be because mosquitoes have built-in workarounds to make sure they can always find their prey. Mosquitoes' nerve cells can detect more than one scent, so even if we masked one human order, they can pick up on other clues.

A woman applies mosquito spray to her hands during hiking.


A woman applies mosquito spray to her hands during hiking.

Photo by: SimpleImages


“Maybe instead of trying to mask them from finding us, it would be better to find odorants that mosquitoes don’t like to smell,” says neuroscientist Anandasankar Ray.

Mosquitos use human body odor, body temperature, and even carbon dioxide exhaled from a human’s breath. Scientists hope that by continuing to study mosquitoes they can develop effective repellants to limit the spread of disease.

Next Up

How a Lizard Loses Its Tail (and More Importantly, Keeps it Attached)

Thanks to a complex internal structure, lizards can shed a tail in a pinch… yet keep their tails attached when they need them.

Dolphin Doctors Appointments: The Future of 3D Scanning Marine Mammals

Drones, satellite tracking, and underwater acoustic devices have made a huge difference in understanding more about the lives of whales and dolphins. Now researchers are turning to 3D laser scanning to get more accurate data about their size, shape, and general health.

How a Whale Song is Helping Scientists Map the Seafloor

The echoes of fin whale vocalizations are so powerful they can penetrate volcanic rock and sediment on the ocean floor. Scientists are using these seismic waves to learn more about the deep sea.

There's a Biodiversity Crisis--Here's What You Need to Know

Despite the world slowing down during the pandemic and studies hailing the slowdown of pollution and positive benefits on the environment, there’s one thing that continued full throttle: the globe’s biodiversity crisis.

Cutting Methane is Quickest Way to Limit Global Warming Before 2030

President Joe Biden has announced plans to tackle climate change by reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by at least 30% by 2030. His pledge, agreed with the European Union, aims to raise ambitions for world leaders to combat global warming ahead of the critical COP26 climate summit in November.

Tree Planting and Reforestation Will Help Limit Global Warming

Planting new trees is one of the most effective ways to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and limit global warming.

Can You Teach a Goldfish to Drive?

A new experiment suggests these household fish actually make good drivers.

Strange Flat-Faced Dinosaur Fossil is Discovered in Egypt

Scientists in Egypt have uncovered an odd-looking dinosaur with smaller teeth, stumpy arms, and a squashed face similar to a bulldog.

Melting Glaciers Could Flood Society with Problems

Earth’s glaciers are both a precious resource and a fragile ecosystem that is disappearing quickly due to global warming. Scientists warn that glaciers will vanish from the mainland US within decades. And their rapid melting is dangerous to society and the natural systems we rely on.

Microplastic Pollution Stirs Urgent Worldwide Clean-Up

Microplastics are a toxic timebomb that could plague the planet for centuries if not tackled urgently.