Mosquitoes, the pesky insects that can be a true nuisance on our warm summer evenings have a complex system of zeroing in on their targets.
According to a new research, such is the system that it allows them to efficiently distinguish their prey from say vegetation or rocks or lumps of sugar. And the key to understanding this complex hunting system of mosquitoes is comprised of three cues: CO2 detection, visual targeting and heat detection.
The study, published in the Current Biology journal explains the underpinnings of mosquitoes zeroing in system.
One step at a time. Researchers concluded that the entire procedure starts with mosquitoes sniffing their way, following CO2 traces. Prevalent in human breath, the CO2 exhaling gives us away as mosquitoes’ yummy nourishment source.
Even better, not only can mosquitoes trace CO2 in our breath, but they can also trace it from a distance between 10 to 50 meters. The trigger prompts them to battles for survival. They narrow in closer and closer to the source of CO2.
That’s when the visual stimuli kicks in. Mosquitoes, like other insects are visually drawn to certain targets. It seems that the pesky nuisances can spot us from 5 to 15 meters away. Couple that with the CO2 sniffing and there’s the deadly combination.
But before they attempt to extract their nourishment out of us, the mosquitoes have one more cue to check. Heat. If they sense heat at a distance of one meter, they will land on their target and proceed with feeding.
The experiment that led to these findings was conducted in a wind tunnel, complete with a dark spot that acted as the visual incentive and a heated glass panel placed closed. 20 mosquitoes were set loose in the controlled environment of the wind tunnel.
While a bit fuzzy regarding the situation at first, the mosquitoes quickly came to their senses when CO2 was released in wind tunnel. As they picked up on the CO2 traces, the insects tried to land on the black dot, also attracted by the heated glass panel.
We can’t do much about mosquitoes zeroing in on us, even with these findings. Yet, it is interesting to understand the working theory of how mosquitoes use their senses to find viable food sources.
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