Rough lessons can lessen the pull of human scent on a mosquito | Science News

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Rough lessons can lessen the pull of human scent on a mosquito

Bursts of shaking teach the bloodsuckers to be indifferent to the odor of people's skin

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10:00am, November 27, 2017
Aedes aegypti mosquito

SCENT OF A HUMAN  Nasty experiences can change an Aedes aegypti mosquito’s inclination to follow certain odors, such as the whiff of human skin.

DENVER – After unpleasant lessons in the lab, mosquitoes can learn some restraint in their zest for pursuing the scent of human skin.

The test, a kind of aversion therapy for mosquitoes to see if they can associate smells with bad experiences, was reported at the annual Entomological Society of America meeting.

“Mosquitoes have this very challenging task of finding food that’s hidden under the skin of mobile and defensive hosts,” said Clément Vinauger of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He’s investigating whether repeated scares such as near misses of a slapping hand might change mosquito reactions to odors.

Female mosquitoes go about their dangerous blood quest by tracking a mix of cues: plumes of carbon dioxide, the sight of looming objects, up-close body heat and body scent (SN: 8/22/15, p. 15). The final targeting can be

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