Mosquitoes associate your scent with danger—and therefore may be more likely to avoid you—when you shoo them away, according to researchers.

By Brooke Schuldt
Updated January 28, 2018

Summer is the perfect season aside from two things—hair-frizzing humidity and mosquitos. Though both can be combatted with a good hairspray, you don’t want to waste all of your hair products on mosquitos. According to a new report from researchers, there is a completely free way to prevent mosquitos that you have probably been doing this whole time: swatting at them.

A report in Current Biology claims that swatting at mosquitos can deter them from biting because they are quick learners. If you swat at a mosquito, they will begin to associate your odor with being attacked, and therefore stay away from that odor to protect themselves. Plus, they can remember odors for days after an encounter, so they will continue to avoid you until they forget your scent.

Researchers have been gathering all of this information in an attempt to determine how mosquitos choose who to bite. Everyone knows that they clearly prefer some people over others (that’s why you seem to get eaten up all summer long, but your sibling or best friend is miraculously unbitten), but it is unclear what goes into determining whether you are a prime target for mosquitos or not, though researchers believe that dopamine may be an important aspect of how mosquitos choose theirs hosts.

"By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviors, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviors," Jeffrey Riffell of the University of Washington, Seattle told EurekAlert. "This could lead to more effective tools for mosquito control."

So what does this mean for you, the unlucky host to a mosquito’s itchy and irritating bite? Basically, science says to grab a fly swatter and hunker down this summer, because protecting yourself will require more than just gallons of bug spray—it will require hand-to-wing combat.