What Colors Attract and Repel Mosquitoes?

Meadow at sunset with flock of mosquitoes flying around

Have you ever wondered if a mosquito is attracted to certain colors and repelled by others? We often place human characteristics on the animals and insects surrounding us, but most creatures think and see differently than we do.

This is especially true when talking about mosquitoes. These small insects do tend to go after certain colors, but there may be more involved in this behavior than a mosquito ”loving” the look of one particular shade over another.

Mosquitoes Eyesight

Macro magnification of a mosquito head and eyes

In order to understand what colors will attract, as well as repel, a mosquito, we need to understand how they see. For as small as the typical mosquito is, their eyesight is quite impressive. Researchers from the California Institute of Technology have found that mosquitoes can see their pray from as far as 16 to 32 feet away.

Mosquitoes get their improved eyesight from a combination of two types of eyes. Each mosquito has a set of compound eyes. These are found one on each side of their head. Their compound eyes are covered with individual lenses known as ommatidia, and they allow them to detect motion and see in multiple directions. The other set of eyes are the photosensitive eyes located on the top of their head. These are called ocelli, and they are used to detect any changes in light.

The excellent eyesight that these eyes provide for a mosquito can detect color as well. These tiny insects combine their ability to see so well with a heightened sense of smell and the ability to detect temperature changes in order to find humans.

Colors That Attract Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes attracted to blue colored pants

Just as mosquitoes are attracted to certain scents, such as carbon dioxide and perspiration, and repelled by scents like citrus, certain colors will attract them while others repel them.

Mosquitoes appear to be attracted by dark colors. This includes black, brown, and dark blue. While they can see these colors, it is more likely that the result these colors produce in humans is partially why these specific colors draw them in. This is especially true when it comes to the clothing you wear. Dark colors retain heat. For a mosquito, heat represents life. Living humans are their primary prey. They will definitely come towards any heat they find while looking for a human. It also helps when you consider that dark colors are easier for them to see with their particular eyesight. So, between the heat these colors hold and the fact that dark colors stand out with their vision, a mosquito will naturally be attracted to any darker shade.

Colors That Repel Mosquitoes

Close-up of mosquito on white cloth

Mosquitoes are not really repelled by lighter colors. They simply aren’t as interested in lighter colors. Light colors, such as white, pink, beige, khaki, and yellow, reflect heat. As a result, mosquitoes are less likely to notice these shades. This doesn’t mean light-colored clothing is a mosquito repellent. People still get bit when wearing light-colored clothing. You also sweat less when wearing light-colored clothing. As a result, they won’t smell your perspiration as intensely. These facts have often caused people to believe that a mosquito doesn’t like light colors. Again, they simply aren’t interested.

In answer to which colors repel mosquitoes, there is no specific shade a mosquito will totally avoid. It is more accurate to say that mosquitoes can be more attracted to one color over another, and these attractive hues are usually the much darker ones.

The Attraction Colored Lights Provide

Many mosquitoes in field around lights on lamp post

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have used an incandescent light source in their mosquito traps for more than 50 years. These specialists need to trap and study mosquitoes in order to estimate the risk of disease spread by these tiny insects. Recently, scientists have discovered that LED lights may work better in their traps.

Incandescent lights emit an entire visual spectrum. Recent studies have found that LED lights emit specific wavelengths instead. This makes it easier to set a trap for mosquitoes because of the colors that they are attracted to.

The insect biologist Francinaldo Silva at the Federal University of Maranhao in Brazil, along with his colleagues, have reported the effects of LED wavelengths on mosquitoes. They discovered that by altering incandescent style light traps with LED lights that emit two specific wavelengths, they could attract more mosquitoes than with the original version.

Mosquitoes hovering around blue and green colored light from lamp

The researchers used six lights traps on a farm in northwestern Maranhao. Two traps emitted 520-nanometer wavelengths. This is a green light. Another two were emitting 470-nanometer wavelengths. This would be a blue light. The last two traps used the standard incandescent light bulbs. Their results found that the green light was the most attractive to mosquitoes. There was 43.3% of all the insects collected in the green light trap. The blue light attracted 31.8%, and only 24.9% went for the incandescent traps.

While these are scientific experiments based on the color of light mosquitoes are drawn towards, there are many myths surrounding mosquitoes and their attraction to colored lights. Many people think that a red or yellow light bulb will repel mosquitoes. This myth comes from homeowners putting colored light bulbs in their outside light fixtures. They noticed that when they used yellow or red lights, they didn’t get as many mosquito bites. One might think that this means that mosquitoes are repelled by those specific colors. In reality, the mosquitoes, just like humans, can’t see as well in these shades of lighting.

In Conclusion

If you are looking for colors that either attract or repel mosquitoes, consider how the insect itself perceives each shade. Keep in mind that just because they appear to be drawn in by dark colors, it doesn’t mean they love browns, blues, and black. There might be many other factors at play. That being said, it appears that mosquitoes prefer a dark color over a lighter shade in most situations.