2THERE’S nothing worse than sitting out in the garden of a summer’s evening only to find that you’ve been eaten half to death by mozzies.
You don’t want to cover yourself in DEET and you don’t want to sit sweltering indoors.
2 Sick of getting bitten by mozzies? Oddly enough, sugar might well helpCredit: Getty – Contributor
So what are you supposed to do?
Well, scientists suggest that there may be a sweet solution to holding back bloodthirsty mosquitoes without having to spray lots of damaging chemicals.
According to a new study, sugar may actually be good for our health in keeping the pests away.
Mosquitoes’ love of blood has had devastating effects on human populations in many developing countries – spreading everything from malaria to Zika and yellow fever.
Only female mosquitoes feast on blood
Writing in The Conversation, Richard Halfpenny, lecturer in biological sciences at Staffordshire University says that “only female mosquitoes feed on blood, as it provides essential nutrients needed to make their eggs”.
The scientists involved in the new study found that “feeding young tiger mosquitoes sugar solutions caused a physiological response similar to that after feeding on blood”.
“Importantly, it then delayed their search for the red velvet blood of a human host,” he explained.
Sugar makes them lose interest in humans
“Interestingly, the researchers found that feeding on sugar caused levels of a protein called vitellogenin to rise in the mosquitoes.
“Vitellogenin is an important component in the production of the egg yolk that provides nutrients to unborn mosquito offspring.
“Normally, vitellogenin is produced when receptors detect specific nutrients that mosquitoes gather from blood meals.”
When the protein rises, mozzies become less attracted to humans – and that discovery could lead to scientists coming up with more solid deterrents.
Richard is quick to point out that more work is yet to be done first.
“Feeding sugar to mosquitoes cannot alone be used as a control method in the real world.
But only young mozzies like sugar
“There are many reasons for this, but the most important is that the effects of sugar on mosquito behaviour can vary significantly, even within just this one species.”
Younger mozzies were less attracted to humans but older females who were fed sugar remained highly attracted to human blood – which isn’t ideal.
So when it comes to DIY prevention, it’s really up to you.
Sugar makes older mozzies stronger
Richard says: “Leaving sugar out for mosquitoes may put off younger mosquitoes from biting you, but it will make older mosquitoes stronger and could weaken the defences of other mosquito species.”
But he says that scientists may be eventually able to genetically modify or treat tiger mosquitoes with hormones to raise their vitellogenin levels.
And that could see disease levels fall dramatically.
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“Given that in most cases mosquitoes pick up disease pathogens during their first meal, such control methods could substantially delay the first blood meal of mosquitoes, making them infectious for a shorter period of time.”
In the meantime, keep on using the bug spray and wearing long sleeves when you go out in areas known to have mozzies.
Oh, and always check with your GP if you need to be taking medication to avoid things like malaria on your holiday.
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