Mosquitoes can bite through clothes, and they are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale. But how do these tiny insects find us?
Mosquitoes have two compound eyes that sit on top of their head. Compound eyes mean that each eye is made up of thousands of tiny lenses, called ommatidia.
These lenses work together to give the mosquito a wide field of view to make up for their fragmented vision. But because each lens produces a separate image, mosquitoes don’t have excellent depth perception.
Despite having only a pair of eyes, mosquitoes can see in all directions at once. This anatomy and adaptation allow them to be very successful hunters.
Not only can they see us, but they can also detect movement from up to 50 feet away! And if that wasn’t enough, some species of mosquitoes can also see in the dark.
Can Mosquitoes See Humans? Mosquito’s Eyesight 101
While it may not come as much of a surprise, it turns out that mosquitoes can see us, humans, quite clearly.
While the way they see is processed differently than how we see things, mosquitoes have blurred vision. However, because they have compound eyes, they can see within a nearly 360-degree radius.
Ommatidia, the tiny lenses that make up a compound eye, each produces its own image. While this gives the mosquito a very wide field of view, it doesn’t allow for great depth perception.
This is a critical aspect of a mosquito’s survival. Having a clear view of their surroundings allows them to spot both food and predators from a distance.
This means that no matter where we move if we’re within range, mosquitoes will be able to spot us. Specifically, their eyesight is highly specialized for detecting movement, making them expert hunters when it comes to tracking down their next blood meal.
In addition to being super-sensitive to light and movement, these tiny insects also have very large eyes relative to their bodies, which enhances their ability to see from long distances away.
What’s more, mosquitoes also have more than 4,000 lenses in each eye, allowing them a high level of clarity even in low-light environments.
Thermal Imaging: Can Mosquitoes See Heat?
As if their vision wasn’t impressive enough, some species of mosquitoes can also see in the infrared spectrum. This means they can detect the heat that is emitted from our bodies through our carbon dioxide.
This ability is made possible by a set of structures called “pit organs” located on the sides of a mosquito’s head.
These organs are able to sense the infrared radiation that we give off and convert it into electrical impulses.
While this ability is primarily found in species of mosquitoes that bite animals, there are a few species of mosquitoes that can use thermal imaging to see humans as well.
This simply explains how mosquitoes can find us even in complete darkness. Additionally, this ability is also what helps them to determine when we are the most active, as our body heat is highest during these times.
How Mosquitoes Track Down Hosts
Mosquitoes are the perfect hunters: they rely on a combination of sight, sound, and smell to track down their prey. Here’s how they do it:
They Use their Highly Sensitive Vision
It is well known that mosquitoes use their sense of smell to find their potential hosts, but much less is understood about how they locate these targets.
Recent research has revealed that they also rely on their incredibly sensitive eyes to track down their victims.
These tiny insects are highly attuned to visual cues such as reflections, shadows, and movement, allowing them to detect even the slightest movements of potential hosts such as human beings or animals.
By using a combination of visual signals and chemical cues, mosquitoes are able to narrow down their search for sources of blood with astonishing accuracy.
This unique sensory combination makes them one of the most efficient hunters in the animal kingdom.
They Listen for the Sounds of their Hosts
Mosquitoes are attracted to the sounds that their hosts make, whether it’s the rustling of leaves as someone walks by or the sound of their breathing.
Recent research has revealed an even more intriguing method behind mosquito hunting tactics: the ability to detect and interpret specific frequencies in the noises given off by their hosts.
Studies have shown that mosquitoes can actually distinguish between various noises produced by different individuals, making them remarkably adept at pinpointing specific kinds of prey.
They Smell Their Host’s Scent
Mosquitoes have several highly sophisticated sensory tools that they use to find hosts and drink their blood. Perhaps the most notable of these is their sense of smell.
Mosquitoes are highly attuned to scents in the air, and they can quickly detect the changes in chemical emissions that occur when a human or animal passes by.
This allows them to track down their hosts based on scent alone, even from long distances away.
Additionally, mosquitoes seem particularly adept at detecting carbon dioxide and lactic acid, two common byproducts produced by active animals and humans.
While for a human nose, these scents might be indistinguishable, mosquitoes can use them to zero in on their intended targets with ease.
All of these sensory abilities work together to create a highly effective hunting system that allows mosquitoes to find and drink the blood of their victims with incredible precision.
Do Mosquitoes See in Color?
Though we don’t know for certain, it is highly unlikely that mosquitoes see in color. Most insects have very simple eyesight, and their visual systems are not nearly as complex as those of mammals or birds.
Instead of seeing a full spectrum of colors as we do, mosquitoes are more likely to see the world in black and white or possibly shades of green.
This makes sense when you consider their hunting habits: they are primarily active at night when there is little color to be seen anyway.
With only two eyes, mosquitoes might not seem like they would be excellent hunters. However, their sophisticated combination of visual, auditory, and olfactory cues allows them to easily track down their hosts, making them some of the most efficient predators in the animal kingdom.
Their 360-degree field of vision, highly sensitive eyesight, and ability to detect specific frequencies all work together to help these tiny insects survive in a big world.