Inside Science is an editorially independent news service of the American Institute of Physics

Reliable news for an expanding universe
  • Inside Science TV

Mosquitoes Need Sugar, Not Blood, To Survive

Thu, 2013-07-18 10:22 -- llancaster

Sweet-tooth tactics could keep pests at bay.
Originally published: 
Jul 18 2013 - 10:00am
Marsha Lewis, ISTV Contributing Producer
It’s summertime, and with the season comes sun, fun and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes suck your blood, leave itchy welts, and can even transmit diseases making them an enemy to anyone who spends time outdoors.  
Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying ways to trap and kill these pests by focusing on what mosquitoes are addicted to. Surprisingly it’s not blood, but sugar.
“We’re combining sugar solutions with toxicants, various types of pesticides,” said Sandra Allan, entomologist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
All mosquitoes need sugar to survive. Female mosquitoes do feed on blood, but both male and female mosquitoes require sugar. In fact, a mosquito needs sugar more frequently than they need blood. Most of the time, mosquitoes get their sugar fix from flowers and other plants, but are also know to prey on humans. 
“Right after they emerge, they will start looking for sugar meals,” said Allen.
Capitalizing on the mosquito's insatiable sweet tooth, researchers are using a sugar-based solution to attract the mosquitoes. Then, the toxic insecticide mixed in the sugar kills them. 
So far, researchers have found five different classes of insecticides ingredients that were all toxic to mosquito species when used in the sugar baits. The liquid is safe for people and pets and can be used as a trap or a spray.
The sugar-based baits could be on the market within the next few months. 
In a related experiment, researchers are evaluating how mosquito repellents influence what a mosquito chooses to bite.  

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and 9 Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news. 

Get inside the science:
Science category: 
News section: