There’s a chance it will taste – or smell – like chicken
When it comes to combatting mosquitos, researchers are in a constant battle to outsmart one of the world’s smallest and deadliest predators. Pushing science forward is the fear that mosquitos are developing a resistance to current repellent practices and climate change is increasing their range.
Bigger and better weapons are always better, so researchers have turned to something much smaller: mosquito DNA, smell, and … chickens.
The science of mosquito smell
Through advances in genomic research, scientists are developing a greater understanding of how mosquitos interact with their world. To find suitable mates, food, and blood meals, these insects rely on their sense of smell.
This, in turn, is steered by genes and odorant-binding proteins (OBPs) on the mosquito’s antennae. In essence, it’s how mosquitos find a host.
Before a female mosquito lands on you, molecules of your odor and that of the bacteria on your body have already wafted through the air. When these molecules reach the mosquito’s OBP, they are transported toward receptors on the olfactory neurons. The insect’s nervous system is activated, and she knows where she’s going to land for her meal.
OBPs are the future
By interfering with the mosquito’s sense of smell, researchers are hopeful a new generation of repellents can be developed that will be able to block the pest’s ability to detect people.
Much of the research in this area is focused on Anopheles, the mosquito species responsible for spreading malaria around the world. The mosquito is found on all continents except Antarctica, and they prefer to feed on humans.
Chickens and mosquitos
Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Addis Ababa University, working in Africa, wanted to know how mosquitos select a host for their blood meal. In many rural African villages, it’s not uncommon for people to share their living quarters with livestock, such as sheep, goats, cows, and chickens.
After harvesting mosquitos and then analyzing the blood they had ingested, scientists discovered the insects had not fed on the chickens. After further observation and testing, they learned the insects actively avoided them.
The future of mosquito repellents
With each scientific discovery, new questions arise. In the case of the chicken-mosquito connection, one theory holds that since chickens eat mosquitoes, the bugs have learned to stay away from them. Another is that chicken blood just isn’t attractive to mosquitoes.
Then, there are the feathers and the mosquito’s OBP’s. While the insects may have been drawn to the odors of humans, fur, and wool, they weren’t so keen on feathers. An analysis of feather odor found two compounds similar to those in people whom mosquitoes avoid, as well as two other compounds that are already known as insect repellents.
Science for today’s mosquitos
The science is still relatively new – and there is no telling when the next great mosquito repellent revolution will occur. To protect your family and property today, consider the services of Platinum Mosquito Protection.