Published: Mon, January 29, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Swatting Mosquitoes Teaches Them To Avoid You

Swatting Mosquitoes Teaches Them To Avoid You

Researchers said that understanding how mosquitoes target hosts may have implications on mosquito control.

Repeatedly squashing mosquitoes could make them stay away from you in the future, a new study claims.

Understanding how mosquitoes behave could lead to more-developed tools.

"By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviours, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviours", Riffell said.

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The researchers fitted the mosquitoes with a helmet so they can observe the reactions of the insects when exposed to various smells, including human body odors.

Dr Riffell tested mosquitoes by given them a choice between sleeves bearing human odours and those with no smell. Apparently, they even have seasonal feeding habits: birds are their main prey in summer while mammals and birds are harangued more during other parts of the year. To examine the concept, researchers found an experienced apparatus known as the vortexer to stimulate a mechanical shock which imitates the exact feeling mosquitos happen when getting swatted a way.

That's a big deal, because Aedes aegypti provides a well-known channel for spreading the Zika virus as well as the viruses associated with yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. The scent of chicken and rats were delivered separately along with a shock to train the insects to instill a negative association with those particular odors. Essentially it helps individuals humans respond and learn to both motivation and rewards, hence that the scientists studied this way could affect mosquitos, as well. Some mosquitos were genetically modified not to have dopamine receptors and were trapped in an arena of sorts while scientists studied the insects' brain activity.

Of course, these findings could offer much more than an insight into how to avoid the annoyance of a few itchy bites; they might also be significant in controlling the spread of mosquito-borne disease.

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Here, we show that olfactory learning may contribute to Aedes aegypti mosquito biting preferences and host shifts.

Mosquitoes can distinguish the scent of hosts that exhibit defensive behaviors such as swatting.

The study, published in Current Biology, was intricately created to gauge the learning abilities of the mosquito species, Aedes aegypti. Additionally, they revealed the bugs didn't learn to keep away from rats, which means if a mosquito associates your scent with being assaulted, it will more than likely stay far.

A mosquito flies on the end of a tether during an experiment to study responses to a swat-like shock. In addition to Vinauger, Lahondere and Riffel, the authors include Gabriella Wolff, Lauren Locke, Jessica Liaw and Jay Parrish from UW, plus UC-Riverside's Omar Akbari and Caltech's Michael Dickinson.

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