Why are male mosquitoes attracted to humans?
About the pitch
Mosquitoes in Australia pose a public health risk by transmitting deadly pathogens like Ross River and dengue. Not all mosquitoes are bad; only the females bite and spread disease. Male mosquitoes might be harmless, but they’re still annoying!
Why are male mosquitoes attracted to people when they don’t feed on our blood? This question remains unanswered as most scientific research focuses on female mosquitoes.
This project will investigate the basis of male mosquito attraction to people using simple experiments featuring the domestic mosquito Aedes notoscriptus, a common urban Australian native.
In my experiments, I will investigate the driving force behind male mosquito attraction to people. I will test a suite of sensory cues known to attract female mosquitoes like human odours, CO2, heat, and dark colours. I will also test a hypothesis that attraction to humans increases the mating success of male mosquitoes.
This research will help to address a neglected biological question of academic and applied interest. Through this work, I hope to raise public awareness of mosquitoes and dispel common myths surrounding their attraction to people. Finally, this research will provide practical knowledge for the development of traps that target male mosquitoes during surveillance and control programs.
Meet the Speaker
I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Pest and Environmental Adaptation Research Group (PEARG). I work with insects and the symbiotic bacteria that live within them.
My research focuses on harnessing these bacteria to control insect pests and the diseases they spread. I am involved in programs that are releasing mosquitoes carrying virus-blocking bacteria called Wolbachia. These trials have dramatically cut dengue transmission by replacing disease-spreading mosquitoes with ones that carry Wolbachia.
My research is expanding to target agricultural pests like aphids, which transmit viruses to crops, as well as local mosquito species that are important disease vectors and nuisance biters in Australia.
In my spare time, I make videos featuring my whining research subjects which have been enjoyed by millions on social media. At home, I enjoy relaxing with my three cats and cultivating my obsession with bamboo and other plants that will never grow as fast as I want them to. I also make stop-motion animations about mosquitoes and other insects to engage the general public with our research.