THURSDAY, Jan. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Those pesky mosquitoes may be smarter than you thought: Turns out that swatting them away may actually teach them to leave you alone.
Researchers found mosquitoes can be taught to associate the odor of a person or animal to a mechanical shock similar to being swatted. Once the pests learn the link, they’ll avoid that scent — and their target.
“Once mosquitoes learned odors in an aversive manner, those odors caused aversive responses on the same order as responses to DEET, which is one of the most effective mosquito repellents,” said researcher Jeffrey Riffell.
“Moreover, mosquitoes remember the trained odors for days,” he added.
Riffell is an associate professor of biology at the University of Washington in Seattle.
A brain chemical called dopamine is key to learning in many animals. The researchers found that’s also true in mosquitoes, helping them learn and process odor-related information.
The findings could prove important to helping control mosquitoes and prevent mosquito-borne diseases, according to the researchers.
The study was published Jan. 25 in the journal Current Biology.
“By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviors, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviors,” Riffell said in a journal news release. “This could lead to more effective tools for mosquito control.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on mosquito control.