Are Mosquitoes Actually Attracted to Light?


Mosquitoes are a nuisance that follow us throughout the summer season. In an effort to find out how to deter them, we have to understand what brings them to us first—for example, the light. 

Mosquitoes are not actually attracted to light but rather, they use light to navigate. What actually attracts them is carbon dioxide and warmth. However, there are certain types of light that are less visible to them, such as red or yellow lights. 

So, if the mosquitoes aren’t attracted to light, why do they gather around your bulbs? Which types of light are more visible to them? To find all of this out and more, read on.

Which Type of Light Attracts Mosquitoes the Most? 

We often think that mosquitoes are attracted to light based on the fact that mosquitoes often hurdle towards the light, especially the outdoor light sources. However, the light isn’t what they are naturally attracted to — at least not the biting mosquitoes. 

The female mosquitoes (the ones that actually bite us) are using their sense of smell to find us. They are on the lookout for carbon dioxide from our breath and warmth of our bodies.

Female mosquitoes need the protein from our blood to lay healthy eggs, and that’s why they bite us. The light, for them, provides a way to navigate. 

Male mosquitoes, the ones that don’t bite, are more prone to search for light sources and warmth as they are on more of a quest for survival rather than reproduction.

During the day, or under the clear moon without artificial lights, it’s easy for them to navigate. 

These natural light sources are very far away, so mosquitoes can move around easily without the light disrupting their sense of direction. However, bright artificial lights like lamps confuse them, so they move towards it, trying to adjust their angle to see properly. This is why we often see them gathered around a lamp. 

But alas, they are attracted to many other things, and lights just end up leaving them plain confused! Some lights, naturally, are more visible to them than the others. For example, mosquitoes like green or blue hues and can see them well, while they can’t see red or yellow lights, which is why they won’t swarm as much if you use those bulbs. 

This next part may shock you.

Male mosquitoes are attracted to light, especially the type that has plenty of UV rays. So, most of the mosquitoes that end up in your zapper or similar light traps are actually male mosquitoes that don’t bite and aren’t actually the ones you are targeting. 

In general, mosquitoes are not that keen on sunshine or anything too warm. Most species will hide away during the day out of fear of being dehydrated and burned if the sun is too hot. 

However, artificial lights do confuse all mosquitoes at varying levels. The bulbs that attract the mosquitoes the most are fluorescent ones (CFLs). They attract other insects too as they release plenty of ultraviolet light, so the mosquitoes run to it — the sun also has a lot of UV rays, as you probably know. 

Traditional incandescent bulbs that are often used in homes are also attractive to mosquitoes in the sense that they will be able to see it well and can easily move towards it when they’re trying to navigate.

They also like older LEDs that emit UV rays, as well as any other type of light that emits a higher level of UV rays. 

Which Light Can’t Mosquitoes Sense at All?

Just like there are types of light that invite the mosquitoes in, there are also types of light that mosquitoes can’t see, so they don’t follow it. As mentioned, mosquitoes can see UV rays, so they naturally search for those lights when they’re trying to guide their way around.

If you find a bulb that emits a low amount of UV light, that’s the bulb that’s going to work against mosquitoes best. Not because they have a distaste for it, but because they can’t see it that well. 

One highly regarded outdoor, yellow light is the BlueX A19 Amber Yellow LED Bug Light Bulb. It’s specifically designed to resist the senses of insects and doesn’t emit ANY blue light, which attracts mosquitoes.

It’s a good inexpensive investment to test, or you can purchase some color changing lightbulbs and use the yellow filter as well.

Overall, you can find these types of bulbs in more modern LEDs. These are different from the old LEDs in that they have a lower level of blue light and UV light. If you aren’t sure what you are looking for, look for LEDs with less blue light. There are also special bulbs on the market that won’t attract as many bugs.

All of this, of course, doesn’t mean they won’t find you — it just means you would make their job harder without a light to help them navigate.

Are Mosquitoes Technically Attracted to UV Light? 

As mentioned, mosquitoes aren’t attracted to just the light, so just UV won’t be enough to attract them. But it does help them find us.

Humans release a dose of carbon dioxide with each breath, we release warmth which they are drawn to, and our sweat has chemicals that attract them. The light here plays a vital role in helping them navigate towards us. 

Any type of light that offers plenty of UV rays is the type of light that mosquitoes will follow to get around. They are used to it because the sun also has a lot of UV rays. The light also emits a form of heat that makes the light slightly attractive to mosquitoes. 

Mosquitoes can see colors in the range from UV to green pretty well, especially when compared to warmer colors like yellow or red. 

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Blue Light? 

Mosquitoes have a specific color palette they are attracted to or naturally navigate towards because their eyesight doesn’t allow them to see further. One of the colors on the specter they can see is blue. 

So, if your outdoor or indoor light has a bluish hue, that might be enough to invite them in. Mosquitoes, like most insects, show a preference for colors ranging from violet to blue or green. They have sensitive photoreceptors that allow them to see these types of light. 

Most traps use this type of light as an attractant and it has been used for decades for these purposes. But if you just want mosquitoes to avoid your outdoor spaces or your home, you might want to avoid any blue-hued lights and stick with yellow ones or lights specifically designed to be invisible to most kinds of bugs, including mosquitoes.

Another yellow light option comes in the form of these automatic Dusk to Dawn Bug Bulb Outdoor Sensor Yellow Bug Light Bulbs. Essentially, they provide the light that mosquitoes have difficulty seeing and automatically turn on when the sun goes down… pretty neat.

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Candles? 

There’s an ongoing myth that says that mosquitoes can be repelled with citronella-scented candles. But while these are great for setting the mood in those warm summer evenings, they won’t actually do their job of repelling mosquitoes. 

This myth stemmed from the fact that research has, in fact, shown that citronella essential oil can be an effective repellent for mosquitoes, particularly in certain combinations. So, the essential oil is effective, but the candles aren’t. 

The reason for this is that the smell of the candle isn’t as concentrated as the smell of the essential oil. Add in the fact that you might have the AC on or a bit of a wind blowing around, and the smell dissipates in the air, becoming completely useless as a mosquito repellant. Just a few candles won’t be enough to get the smell strong enough to deter mosquitoes. 

As a bonus, candles are a form of light. While most of them shine a yellowish light that mosquitoes don’t normally like, they are also really warm, so the mosquitoes could be attracted to them, thus defeating the purpose of citronella. 

So, with or without the citronella — or any other touted “mosquito repelling” scent in candles — your candle will do the opposite of what you want it to do.

If you’re interested in a citronella based mosquito repellent, take a gander at the Thermacell Patio Sheild. This reloadable, citronella dispursing device is claimed to be (by Thermacell) 6x more effective than 42 citronella candles. Talk about repellent!

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Red Light? 

You’ve probably heard many recommendations — either from friends and family, or the Internet — that red light bulbs can deter mosquitoes. However, this may be another myth. 

As already mentioned, mosquitoes can’t see warmer colors like yellow, red, orange, etc. So, they won’t normally navigate towards them. They’ll be more interested in blue lights, violet or green lights. 

However, the redness itself won’t repel them. Female mosquitoes search for the carbon dioxide in our breath or our warmth, so if they need us, they’ll find us. The red light might make it a bit harder.

But, red lights are also very uncomfortable for humans as well. So, you might want to reconsider your choice of bulbs in this case. 

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to Black Light?

Blacklight is one of those lights that are naturally visible to mosquitoes. As such, they will easily find it in the dark and navigate to it. However, according to some research, it’s more attractive to male mosquitoes and other non-biting bugs than it is to female mosquitoes.

Again, this is to show that some of the deterring techniques that utilize blacklight aren’t that effective. If you want to deter mosquitoes through choosing better light sources, it’s best to stay away from any color lights that might attract them. 

Choose a light that emits other colors and a lower number of UV rays. Yellow hues — or the ones that steer in that direction — are an excellent option. 

Are Mosquitoes Attracted to LED Light? 

It was already mentioned that newer, more modern LED lights are your best bet if you want to keep the mosquitoes from gathering around your light sources. Some may be confused, as most LEDs do have that blue hue. However, some of them are generally more yellowish, so they work well. 

The deterring comes in two ways: 

  • The LEDs release fewer UV rays, and since mosquitoes like them, they will look for a light source that has them.
  • Yellowish LEDs are harder for mosquitoes to see, so they won’t immediately go in that direction. 

Of course, there are some issues here as well. Mosquitoes will look for heat and most bulbs, whether LED or not, will produce heat. The other problem is that bugs will generally look for light to navigate, even if the light is not inside their color spectrum. So, they might even see your LED. 

Finally, the big problem with LEDs is that they produce enough warmth for insects to be attracted to them, but they don’t produce enough warmth to burn them, so the insects won’t be afraid to hang around. 

If you want to use LEDs, choose the newer ones — which will be slightly more expensive — and steer away from old, blue ones. Pick the ones with a yellowish hue. These could have some potential as they are also colder, so they will not be attractive due to their relative lack of warmth. 

Do Mosquitoes Like the Dark? 

The mosquito species can be nocturnal, crepuscular, or diurnal. 

The nocturnal preference means that they like the darkness, the crepuscular preference means that they like the sundown, and diurnal means that they like the day. This also refers to their most active times. So, not all mosquitoes are active in that short time between the late afternoon and dark. 

This can help you understand the species better. But, at the same time, even science has trouble determining which species prefer which time of the day. One of the most common species, Anopheles mosquitoes, are most active during the night, while another common species, Aedes mosquitoes, bite during the day. 

All of these mosquito species are present in most countries and continents, which means that you get all three types of mosquitoes everywhere, and you can’t avoid getting bitten no matter the time of the day it is. 

So, some of the mosquitoes do prefer the darkness, and they work better in it. It all depends on the species in question.

What Attracts Mosquitoes Besides Light? 

In the grand scheme of things, lights are the least of your problems when it comes to attracting mosquitoes. There are other factors that drive mosquitoes towards you, and some of them are harder to control than others. 

Blood Type

Mosquitoes are picky even when it comes to humans, so they steer more towards people with O blood type. If you have this blood type, you are emitting a scent that is more appealing to mosquitoes than other blood types. If no type O’s are available, then mosquitoes will choose type B blood over type A. 

Type A blood is their least favorite. So, your blood type may be detrimental to the number of bites you get through the summer. 

Body Odor

Next, mosquitoes are also attracted to your body odor. You produce sweat and your skin has a natural amount of bacteria at all times, making you attractive to mosquitoes. Not all body odors attract them, but certain types do. Sweat is on top of that list.

So you know, just be lazy and don’t workout and you should be good to go, right?

The second-best thing if you are a mosquito is perfume. Many mistakenly cover themselves in scents to deter mosquitoes from their skin, but perfume can make mosquitoes even more attracted to you. The only good solution would be to shower and try not to move as much or spend too much time in the sun during the hottest months of the year.

Exercising, for example, makes us emit lactic acid, which is also attractive to mosquitoes.

Of course, being outside and not sweating sometimes aren’t options, which is why you can use highly regarded repellent like DEET.

Carbon Dioxide

The biggest factor in mosquito attraction, however, is our breath, or more specifically, carbon dioxide. They use it to find us, even from miles away. When they find you, and you’re in a group, they’ll determine who to bite. 

The more carbon dioxide you emit, the more likely you are to be found and bitten. For example, you breathe out more when exercising, working, running, or walking, so that’s when you’re most likely to get bitten.

Of course, we can’t NOT breath but if you’re outside for a run and wondering why you’re getting bitten more, you might have a good idea why.

Alcohol

Finally, drinking is a factor you can affect and it makes you more attractive to mosquitoes. The simple reason behind this is that alcohol increases your body temperature and thus, mosquitoes have an easier time finding you. 

How to Keep Mosquitoes Away From Light

Since mosquitoes navigate towards the light to understand the space around them, the big question becomes whether there’s a way to protect your lights and make sure that they don’t come because of that. 

One of the clearest options is to stick with lights that emit less warmth and less blue light. However, besides getting a brand new light bulb for your porch, what can you do to ensure that mosquitoes don’t get attracted to your bulbs like, well – moths to a flame.

Turn Lights Off

If you are not using the light, turn it off. This answer may be simple, but it can help you in many ways. For one, you won’t be spending all of that unnecessary power and increasing your electricity bills. But other than that, you won’t give mosquitoes a reason to come to your home. 

If there’s no one sitting outside, turn your porch lights off. Some people prefer to keep them on in case surprise guests come along or if a member of their family is coming home. But, it might be more effective if that family member texted you a few moments before coming and you turned the light on then, instead of keeping it on all evening. 

Hold off on turning the light on either way or get a movement-sensor light that will turn on when someone comes along, but will turn off as soon as that someone leaves. This could help you deter mosquitoes — they won’t stick around if there’s no light to guide them. 

Light Candles Instead of Turning on the Lights

If you want to sit out on the porch during those summer evenings, you might consider lighting a few candles instead of turning on the lights. While you shouldn’t rely on them for repelling mosquitoes, as that’s not scientifically confirmed, they won’t invite as many bugs as bulbs. 

The reason behind this is that the flame can burn the mosquitoes and they won’t get near it. The candles usually have a yellowish light, so the mosquitoes won’t find it with ease. As a bonus, candles are elegant and romantic, so they could be a good way to boost a nice evening. 

You can even use them in your home. However, always remember to blow them out when you’re about to go to sleep or otherwise leave, as the candles could pose a fire hazard for your home, especially when indoors. 

Keep the candles away from anything flammable and protect them in a way that won’t allow the fire to catch on. Fortunately, all of this can look nice if you get some mason jars or glass trays. 

Install a Ceiling Fan

If your heart is set on using the regular lights and keeping your life as normal as possible — not letting the mosquitoes affect it — you should try installing some ceiling fans on your porch or inside of your home. 

Mosquitoes are good at flying, but not so much if there’s a wind current blowing straight into them. If you install a ceiling fan close to your bulb, this might be just enough to get them away without otherwise changing your life. As a bonus, you’ll get a nice breeze on warm summer evenings. 

Other bugs will have a hard time coming to your porch as well, so it’s a good choice if moths also annoy you. 

On top of all of this, the carbon dioxide from your breath won’t gather easily and it will dissipate into the wind if the air is moving around. So will your scents, making it harder for mosquitoes to find you. 

Put Up a Screen Around Your Porch

Another option to protect your home is to put up a screen. While most people already have screens on their doors, you might consider putting up a screen around your porch during the hottest months of the year. 

This will keep mosquitoes away no matter what, and you’ll be able to enjoy your summer in peace. Of course, it entails a bit more work, but it’s well worth it if you have a lot of mosquitoes in your area. 

They might be able to smell you and find you, but they won’t be able to come near you. As long as the doors remain tightly closed and there are no gaps in the mesh, you can rely on your screen to keep you perfectly safe all summer. In fact, you can keep most bugs out this way, and this will also protect the inside of your home better than just having regular screens on windows and doors. 

Remove All Standing Water

This is a good recommendation no matter what – when mosquito season comes around, go through your yard and remove any standing water. Mosquitoes lay eggs in these habitats and it will be much harder for them to find a home in your yard if you remove their favorite habitat. 

Drain any pond that you have – this is good for conserving water during summer as well. Cover any pools you might have in your yard. Make sure they are tightly closed off until you need them again. Clear your gutters so that the water can move freely and dry quickly where possible. 

Gutters are another favorite place for mosquitoes. Make sure that the area below the gutters is well-drained. Aerate your lawn regularly – or spike it – so that the water drains and none of it keep hanging around long after the rain. 

If you have any tools, toys, dishes, or anything similar that keeps collecting water in your yard, remove it as well. Mosquitoes find these places irresistible, so removing it will make quite a difference in the number of mosquitoes around your home. 

You could also benefit from trimming your bushes and hedges often, reducing the number of plants you have in your garden, etc. This attracts insects because of the nectar. Don’t believe in the myth that certain plants deter mosquitoes. Planting them will just give mosquitoes a nice place to rest during the sunniest times of the day. 

One Last Note on Mosquitoes and Lights

Mosquitoes have been a big problem for humans for centuries. While there isn’t a definite way to remove them from your environment or prevent them from biting, there are certainly some things you can do. Lights are an important factor, for example, because they help mosquitoes navigate towards us. 

So, reducing your usage of lights or using appropriate light bulbs could help you boost your chances of avoiding those nasty bites. Naturally, combining the method of changing the bulbs with different methods of deterring mosquitoes, such as using a repelling spray on your skin, spraying essential oils around your home, putting up screens, draining all sources of standing water, etc.

References

Ansari, M. A., & Razdan, R. K. (1995). Relative efficacy of various oils in repelling mosquitoes. Indian journal of malariology, 32(3), 104-111.

Barr, R. A., Smith, T. A., & Boreham, M. M. (1960). Light intensity and the attraction of mosquitoes to light traps. Journal of Economic Entomology, 53(5), 876-880.

Davis, E. E., & Bowen, M. F. (1994). Sensory physiological basis for attraction in mosquitoes. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 10(2 Pt 2), 316.

McMeniman, C. J., Corfas, R. A., Matthews, B. J., Ritchie, S. A., & Vosshall, L. B. (2014). Multimodal integration of carbon dioxide and other sensory cues drives mosquito attraction to humans. Cell, 156(5), 1060-1071.

Horsfall, W. R. (1943). Some responses of the malaria mosquito to light. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 36(1), 41-45.

Feldlaufer, M. F., & Crans, W. J. (1979). The relative attractiveness of carbon dioxide to parous and nulliparous mosquitoes. Journal of Medical Entomology, 15(2), 140-142.

Takken, W., & Verhulst, N. O. (2013). Host preferences of blood-feeding mosquitoes. Annual review of entomology, 58, 433-453.

Recent Posts