Mosquitoes Really Do Like You Better At Night

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Just being outdoors puts you at risk for bug bites, but you probably have noticed that the mosquitoes seem more vicious at night. Researchers with the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health has found the reason why. The mosquitoes can actually smell you better after dark.

A research team led by Associate Professor Giles Duffield and Assistant Professor Zain Syed examined the olfactory sensitivity of the Anopheles gamiae mosquito which is responsible for most malaria cases in Africa. The team primarily focused on a family of chemosensory proteins known as odorant-binding proteins. These appear to be produced by the mosquito in greater quantities at night, meaning they actually have a keener sense of smell at that time.

Mosquito bites aren’t just an itchy nuisance. The insects carry some pretty devastating diseases. Malaria, in particular, is responsible for more than 660,000 deaths in 2010 – mostly in Africa. West Nile Virus disease has affected over three million people since it first was reported in the US in 1999.

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Insect repellent is the best defense against mosquitoes. But you may have heard that some bugs are actually learning to avoid it. If you find that your DEET repellent (the one most recommended by experts) is becoming ineffective, you may try another brand that contains picaridin, Eucalyptus oil (PMD) or IR3535.

There are also several ways to repel mosquitoes naturally as well.

Avoidance is also good advice. If you can avoid being outdoors in the hours between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite, stay in. If not, wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and socks to reduce the amount of skin exposed.

Journal Reference:
Samuel S. C. Rund, Nicolle A. Bonar, Matthew M. Champion, John P. Ghazi, Cameron M. Houk, Matthew T. Leming, Zainulabeuddin Syed, Giles E. Duffield. Daily rhythms in antennal protein and olfactory sensitivity in the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae. Scientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep02494

Additional Resource:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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