More than 200 types of mosquitoes live in the U.S. and its territories — and about 12 of those types can spread germs that can make people sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We VERIFIED five facts about mosquitoes and share tips on what works to repel them.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Terminix, a pest control company
- Hartford HealthCare
- Houston Methodist Hospital
- American Red Cross
- Bug Out, a pest control company
- Study published in Nature Communications
- Study published in the American Journal of Entomology
- Study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology
- Study published in the Malaria Journal
- Floyd Shockley, Ph.D., entomologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- Jeff Riffell, Ph.D., professor of biology at the University of Washington
Are mosquitoes the deadliest animal in the world?
Yes, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world.
WHAT WE FOUND
While mosquitoes don't maul or drown people, like some other predators, they do deliver diseases that kill an estimated 700,000 people per year worldwide, which is more than any other creature on Earth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). That’s why mosquitoes are considered the deadliest animal in the world.
Mosquitoes are known to spread mosquito-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya and lymphatic filariasis. While the CDC says these diseases are rare in most of the United States, the agency says you can protect yourself by avoiding bites from infected mosquitoes.
The CDC provides tips on how to prevent mosquito bites on its website. These tips include using an EPA-registered insect repellent with active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and taking steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors, such as using screens on windows and doors or using air-conditioning, if available.
Do bubbles keep mosquitoes away?
No, bubbles don’t keep mosquitoes away.
WHAT WE FOUND
Floyd Shockley, Ph.D., an entomologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, says bubbles do not have any properties that act as a mosquito repellent and there is no evidence that they keep mosquitoes at bay.
“There's no particular reason why bubbles of any kind would have a particular impact on mosquitoes,” Shockley told VERIFY.
A powerful enough bubble machine with a fan might help keep some mosquitoes away, but it’s not because of the bubbles. Mosquitoes are poor flyers and therefore don’t like to fly in the wind, according to Shockley.
Terminix, a pest control company, adds that fans can disperse carbon dioxide and odors that mosquitoes use to locate you. So if the fan in a bubble machine is strong enough, you may see slightly fewer mosquitoes around while you run it than you would otherwise.
“But you can accomplish the same thing without the bubbles just by putting up fans around the area that you want to be socializing in,” Shockley said.
Are mosquitoes attracted to certain colors?
Yes, mosquitoes are attracted to certain colors.
WHAT WE FOUND
Do you find yourself the target of mosquitoes every time you step outside?
A recent study published in Nature Communications found that mosquitoes are most attracted to the colors black, red and orange. Terminix also says that wearing dark-colored clothing – when combined with movement and breath – might make it easier for mosquitoes to find you.
“Mosquitoes really like dark, black colors,” Jeff Riffell, Ph.D., a biology professor at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, told VERIFY. “What that might indicate is that they are really sensitive to desiccation or losing water, and so they want to find dark, shady areas to rest.”
The reason mosquitoes are attracted to red and orange is because that’s what human skin looks like to them, according to Riffell.
“What we found is that when we start looking at the dominant colors that we're reflecting from our skin, no matter what your skin tone or how dark or light you are, we are dominantly reflecting orange and red,” Riffell explained.
But can mosquitoes actually see color? Terminix says that they may be able to detect certain colors, but only if carbon dioxide (CO2) is in the vicinity. The study also found that certain odors and bodily cues, like heat and water vapor, can also trigger mosquitoes' response to color.
Are mosquitoes more attracted to a specific blood type?
Yes, mosquitoes are more attracted to a specific blood type.
WHAT WE FOUND
Blood types are determined by the presence or absence of certain antigens, which are substances that can trigger an immune response if they are foreign to the body, the American Red Cross explains on its website. There are four major blood groups: A, B, AB and O.
“If you have O-type blood, you're automatically a more favorable host to most of the blood-feeding mosquitoes we have,” Shockley told VERIFY.
A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Entomology that examined the blood-feeding preferences of female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes found that they preferred people with type O blood. Another study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in 2004, which tested the landing preferences of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, also found that they landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A blood.
“Folks with O-type blood tend to be preferred hosts for mosquitoes and those who are Type A are least preferred among the blood types,” Shockley said. “Everything else falls somewhere in the middle.”
In addition to having type O blood, there are other factors that can attract mosquitoes, including sweating, drinking alcohol and higher body temperatures.
Is lavender an effective mosquito repellant?
Yes, lavender is an effective mosquito repellant.
WHAT WE FOUND
The essential oil derived from the lavender plant is an effective mosquito repellent because it has a strong scent that helps deter mosquitoes by blocking their sense of smell, according to entomologist Floyd Shockley, Bug Out, a pest control company, and a 2019 study.
“You have to have lavender oil, not just have lavender flowers around, to really get good repellency,” Shockley said. “It confuses their olfactory system and overwhelms it, and so, they have a harder time finding you — consider it sort of a natural chemical camouflage.”
A study published in the Malaria Journal found that essential oils from plants, like lavender, camphor, catnip, geranium, jasmine, eucalyptus and lemongrass, showed “good repellency” over an eight-hour test time.
The study’s researchers concluded that plant oils can serve as suitable alternatives to synthetic repellents because they're “relatively safe, inexpensive and readily available in many parts of the world.”