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Mosquitoes Might Like Your Smell, But They Remember Your Swat, Study Finds

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Many states, especially those in the South, often refer to the mosquito as their “state bird,” a dry joke making light of the high prevalence of the bothersome bug. Whether it’s fearing the itchy welt or worrying about contracting a virus, many of us go to extremes to keep the pests away. You might think that bug spray or citronella candles are the best repellants, but a recent study found that swatting at mosquitoes may actually help them learn to stay away from you.

Mosquito in insect flight simulatorResearchers used an insect flight simulator (pictured here) along with CRISPR gene editing and RNAi techniques to determine that dopamine is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. (Photo by Kiley Riffell /

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech, confirmed what scientists already suspected: that mosquitoes remember the taste and smell of human blood and often pick on individuals whose blood is “sweeter” to them. That’s why your friend had a slew of bug bites during that last camping trip, but you only emerged with just a few. But the finding changed when researchers observed their behavior around people who shooed them away more; that is, mosquitoes, may remember the smell of sweeter blood, but they also remember the defensive measures taken against them.

The authors found that the brain chemical dopamine plays a role in a mosquito learning which hosts to attack and which to avoid. So while a person’s blood can be remembered as particularly delicious, so can their ferocious swatting techniques.

Clément Vinauger, assistant professor of biochemistry, and Chloé Lahondère, a research assistant professor, demonstrated that mosquitoes learn which individuals to attack and which to leave alone with aversive learning. They trained female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to associate certain odors, such as human body odor, with unpleasant vibrations and shocks.

Mosquito brainResearchers used an insect flight simulator (pictured here) along with CRISPR gene editing and RNAi techniques to determine that dopamine is a key mediator of aversive learning in mosquitoes. (Photo courtesy of Gabriella Wolff /

After the training, the mosquitoes were put into an insect flight simulator, where they had to fly upwind and choose between the human odor and a control odor. The mosquitoes, even though before the training they preferred human odor, avoided it in the test.

Using sophisticated tools like CRISPR gene editing and RNAi, the scientists were able to isolate dopamine as the main mediator in mosquito adverse learning.

“Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly what attracts a mosquito to a particular human — individuals are made up of unique molecular cocktails that include combinations of more than 400 chemicals,” explains Lahondère in a release. “However, we now know that mosquitoes are able to learn odors emitted by their host and avoid those that were more defensive.”



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Just pulled two ticks off my dog yesterday. They were dead because she's been treated with Frontline, but the one under her eye took 20 minutes to pull off with the tweezers it was clamped on so tight. We have a weekend place on a lake in the woods and the people that live there year round told us the ticks are unusually small this year.

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Rare and deadly tick from East Asia inexplicably turns up in Arkansas

This undated photo provided by Rutgers University shows three Longhorned ticks: from left, a fully engorged female, a partial engorged female, and an engorged nymph. A hardy, invasive species of tick that survived a New Jersey winter and subsequently traversed the mid-Atlantic has mysteriously arrived in Arkansas. No one is sure how the Longhorned tick, native to East Asia, arrived in the country, nor how it made its way to the middle of the continent. (Jim Occi/Rutgers University via AP)

The Longhorned tick  was found on a dog in Benton County, Arkansas recently. The tick is native to East Asia but has somehow managed to travel to the U.S. where it has been found in three other states.


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Tick, mosquito and flea born disease have killed more people in this world than wars.  I hope that we can get a handle on things like ZIKA, LYME and other tick fevers.

Tick-resistant clothing protects you from three species of the bug that carries Lyme disease, CDC study finds 


NEW As we enter what is expected to be the worst season for ticks in years, you may want to invest in repellent clothing to guard against Lyme disease, as a CDC study found the garments immobilize bugs.


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Reply with quote  #5 

Deadly Yellow fever outbreak threatens to spread to Florida… just two years after Zika virus hit the area 


Unlike Zika, Yellow fever, has the potential to kill - after 338 people died from the disease in Brazil last year. Despite this the disease is rare in the US, with only one case reported since 2004

Tropical dengue fever could be spread through sex: Scientists discover the mosquito virus in the semen of an Italian man who had recovered

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