Mosquitoes are notorious for their blood and can spread disease. Only female mosquitoes feed on blood, but perhaps less well known is that female mosquitoes feed on blood for only a few days of their lives, and the rest of the time they feed on nectar, which is the only food source for male mosquitoes.
New research suggests that flowers are powerful for mosquitoes and, interestingly, they are also a deterrent. The findings suggest the possibility of using chemicals in flowers attracted or repugnant by mosquitoes to create more effective and less toxic mosquito traps and insect repellents.
The team studied the aedes aegypti mosquito’s appeal to Pantanthera, often known as blunt leaf orchids, and has observed a mosquito preference for orchids, but the researchers proved that the smell of orchids makes them irresistible by covering them with canvas bags. This prompted the researchers to start recreating the smell in the lab. The researchers say odors are actually a complex combination of chemicals that mosquitoes can detect the various chemicals that make up the smell. In response, the team identified the chemicals present using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, and found that mosquitoes preferred cesaland and cloves.
Mosquitoes want these compounds to appear at the same proportion as orchids. Interestingly, without lilac, mosquitoes do not have an interest in compounds, but cloves are more abundant than naturally occurring, and mosquitoes are sometimes scared away by the smell. The researchers examined the brain activity of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquito, and found that pyrethtal and clovealdehyde stimulate the competitive parts of the brain, one of which has the ability to inhibit the activity of the other. The different proportions of these compounds seem to make one orchid attract mosquito, while the other has a mosquito repellent effect. The study offers compelling promise for artificial insect repellents and traps.