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Bug Off!

DYLAN BECKSHOLT/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

BLOODSUCKER: A mosquito’s proboscis, or mouth part, contains six needle-like appendages that help it pierce skin and suck blood.

Want to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes this summer? Try swatting the pesky insects. A recent study showed that it may be possible to train the bloodsuckers to stay away.

In the study, researchers lured mosquitoes with scents of animals the bugs like to feed on, like rats and chickens. Then they exposed the insects to a swatting motion. Researchers found that the bugs learned to equate certain scents with the threat of being squashed. For at least 24 hours, the bugs would remember to avoid smells related to swats.

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they also spread diseases, such as malaria and dengue. These diseases kill millions of people. So any effort to keep them from biting is worth it. “You want to keep on swatting,” says Jeff Riffell, a biologist at the University of Washington who conducted the study.

COURTESY OF KILEY RIFFELL/UW COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

TEST TIME: This machine exposes a mosquito to specific scents and vibrations that mimic swatting.

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