Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mosquitoes: How we smell is why they bite

Date:
July 2, 2012
Source:
University of Notre Dame
Summary:
A mosquito biologist is studying the olfactory behavior of mosquitoes as a means of developing more effective methods of disease control.

Mosquito sucking blood.
Credit: Henrik Larsson / Fotolia

Now that the summer season is in full swing, many of us will be hosting picnics and barbecues and socializing outside. Chances are, we'll also have some unwanted guests in the form of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes seem to have an uncanny ability to locate us and Zainulabeuddin Syed, a mosquito biologist with the University of Notre Dame's Eck Institute for Global Health, has gone a long way toward to determining how they do it.

In short, it's because of the way we smell.

Zain studies olfaction in mosquitoes and other insects and he points out that mosquitoes have an extraordinary sense of smell. A big part of their brains are devoted to this sense. Only female mosquitoes feed on blood meals and they use the blood to produce eggs. And female mosquitoes find their blood meals through the use of smell.

For example, Culex mosquitoes, which transmit West Nile and other life-threatening illnesses, are able to detect even minute concentrations of nonanal, a chemical substance given off by humans. They detect nonanal through receptor neurons on their antennae. Birds are the main hosts of mosquitoes and they also give off nonanal. Birds are the main source of the West Nile virus and when mosquitoes move on to feast on humans and other species, they transmit the virus to them.

An understanding of the olfactory behavior of mosquitoes that leads them to feed on humans can play an important role in developing more effective methods of mosquito and disease control.

Syed is also researching the role that plants play in mosquito behavior. He points out that despite our occasional feeling that we're surrounded by hordes of hungry mosquitoes, they spend a relatively short amount of time feeding. Rather, they spend considerable time on plants taking the sugars that provide energy for those occasions when they do feed.

The Notre Dame researcher's lab is studying what smells plants that mosquitoes are attracted to give off. Again, a deeper understanding of the role of the chemicals produced by plants and how mosquitoes select plants to obtain their energy sources can lead to better control and elimination strategies.

Syed points out that DEET still is an effective mosquito repellant and he was one of a team of researchers who revised the conventional understanding of how it works. The prevailing wisdom among researchers was that DEET was effective because it masked odors that attract mosquitoes. However, research by Syed and his colleagues showed that mosquitoes smell DEET directly and avoid it.

For many of us, better mosquito control techniques would result in greater comfort and convenience when we're outdoors. In many areas of the world, however, mosquito control is a matter of life and death. In Africa alone, malaria, one of the many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, takes a human life, most frequently a child's, every 30 seconds. A better understanding of the role smell plays in mosquito behavior can offer important clues that may lead to new control strategies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Notre Dame. "Mosquitoes: How we smell is why they bite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120702153218.htm>.
University of Notre Dame. (2012, July 2). Mosquitoes: How we smell is why they bite. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120702153218.htm
University of Notre Dame. "Mosquitoes: How we smell is why they bite." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120702153218.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins