CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -In an attempt to figure out how mosquitoes see, smell, track and attack you, researchers at Virginia Tech put helmets on mosquitoes and put them in flight simulators.
For years its been known mosquitoes can smell a person’s body odor or carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted when you breath, and it draws them to you.
What they haven’t understood is how mosquitoes use the smell, combined with sight to come suck your blood.
To figure it out researchers 3D printed mini helmets, placed them on mosquitoes and put them in flight simulators.
“For the flight simulator, it’s basically a virtual reality environment for mosquitoes,” Clement Vinauger said, researcher with Virginia Tech’s Department of Biochemistry.
“Mosquitoes are attached in the middle of this cylinder made of LEDs.”
Using the LED lights they simulated different types and amount of light such as starlight or the light a person’s clothing might give off.
They then periodically pump in CO2.
“We used that to test whether the responses of mosquitoes to these different visual stimuli would differ in the presence or absence of CO2," Vinauger said.
“We found that if they smell CO2, mosquitoes respond with a greater accuracy in their tracking to smaller discrete objects such as squares and bars.”
Those squares and bars represent the light a person’s body might give off.
Then, using a genetically engineered line of mosquitoes that show brain patterns with florescent indicators, they were able to track the brain energy in them as they were on the hunt.
While all of this might seem a bit much, just to prove that mosquitoes are smarter than we thought, this research could eventually help keep the pests away.
“Potentially for the design of new baits or traps that will be more efficient at catching mosquitoes using vision and olfaction (sense of smell)," Vinauger said.
“But also potentially help us develop clothes or fabric that would disrupt the ability of mosquitoes to track us down.”