Can Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes?

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal on earth, killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. In 2019 the number of people killed by malaria alone was 409,000.

Unfortunately, malaria isn’t the only disease transmitted by mosquitoes, so it’s a good idea to stay protected. Wearing long-sleeved clothing and trousers is one of the best ways to stay protected. But this doesn’t always provide total protection.

Let’s take a closer look at how these pesky insects can bite through your clothes.

How Do Mosquitoes Bite?

Male mosquitoes don’t bite, it’s only the females that bite. They need a blood meal to provide extra protein to grow their eggs.

The mosquito’s tubular mouth or proboscis isn’t just one needle-like mouthpart but, in fact, contains six thin needles that have different roles. The biting action is an incredibly complex operation.

When the mosquito has selected a good victim she goes to work. She pierces the skin and an outer sheath, the labium, is pushed up as the six needles enter the skin.

Two of these needles called maxillae have serrated edges, like mini saws, to enable the mosquito to “saw” through the skin.

Another pair of needles, the mandibles, hold the skin tissue apart to make the sawing action easier.

The fifth needle, the labrum, searches for a blood vessel beneath the skin. To find a blood vessel, the labrum uses receptors that respond to chemicals in our blood. Once the labrum has found blood, it’s sucked up.

The sixth needle, the hypopharynx, then comes into play, dripping saliva to prevent our blood from coagulating and also pumping in saliva after the proboscis has pierced the skin to block a response from our immune system.

The video below shows a female mosquito in blood-sucking action. Definitely worth watching to get a better idea of the role each needle plays.

Mosquito using her six needles to suck blood

Do Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes?

Yes, mosquitoes can bite through clothes. But there a certain clothes that make it easier for the mosquitoes.

While it’s a good idea to wear a long sleeve shirt, long trousers, and socks, you still need to be careful about what you wear to avoid mosquito bites.

Wearing tight clothing that’s made with thin fabric will allow the mosquito to get her proboscis between the threads and into your skin. Cotton and linen may not provide the best protection against mosquitoes.

Wear loose-fitting clothing and the mosquito’s proboscis won’t be able to reach your skin. Tightly woven fabric or synthetic materials will offer the best protection. Denim or corduroy offers strong protection.

How To Prevent Mosquitoes Biting Through Your Clothes

Maybe in the hot weather, you don’t want to wear thick loose clothing and I can understand you. After all, your body temperature, or warmth, and sweat can make a difference to your attractiveness to mosquitoes. There’s a couple of alternatives for wearing cooler clothes.

Buy Repellent Treated Clothing

Repellent pre-treated clothing is a good alternative. You can buy trousers, tee shirts, shirts, hats, socks, jeans, reflective vests, wraps, or leggings for all the family.

The clothing, treated with permethrin, a repellent/ insecticide, is registered by the EPA as suitable for use by adults and children. As well as repelling mosquitoes, the clothes will also repel, ticks, midges, and other insects. Another great point, the pre-treated clothing will give you protection through 70 washings.

Spray Repellent On Your Own Clothing

If you don’t want the expense of buying new clothes, then you can treat your own clothes. You can either use the same repellent as in the pre-treated clothes, permethrin, or one of the more well-known repellents DEET or picaridin.

Follow the instructions when spraying. You mustn’t be wearing the clothes when you spray, spray in a well-ventilated area, and leave to dry thoroughly before wearing.

Some permethrin sprays are effective for up to 60 days or 6 washes. DEET or picaridin will have to be applied to clothes more often.

If your clothing is very thin, DEET or one of the other EPA-registered repellents may be the best option. They will repel the mosquitoes so that they won’t land on you. The permethrin-treated clothes will kill the mosquitoes after they have landed on you, but they may have the time to bite you before dying.

Don’t forget to apply DEET or picaridin to any bare skin for a complete protection.

Does Color Make A Difference?

Yes, research has shown that color can make a difference. The first mode of search for a mosquito is the vision, especially in daylight hours. As they fly very close to the ground, they can find targets by looking for things that contrast with the horizon.

In general, mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to dark clothes than to white clothes. People dressed in dark colors, black, brown, red will be more attractive. Choose light-colored clothing – white, beige, or khaki. These colors also reflect heat so they will keep you cooler, which is a good thing as it will help you avoid some of the clues a mosquito looks for. 

What Clothes Should You Wear To Avoid Mosquito Bites?

If you wear lightweight, skin-tight clothes mosquitoes will get through to your skin.

Heavy close-knit fabrics that are loose-fitting will give you better protection. Cover as much of your body as possible and apply a repellent to any bare skin.

If you feel too hot in these types of clothes, then repellent treated clothes are the best solution. You can either buy pre-treated clothes or spray them yourself.

The best solution is probably clothes treated with permethrin and deet or picaridin applied to any bare skin. Always follow label directions when using repellents. You can also check the EPA to see other repellents they recommend.

Wearing clothes like these can be a good solution when you are in a mosquito-infested area. One often overlooked item is a head net; they are effective, light, easy to pack, and quite cheap.

If it’s your own garden, the first action should always be to eliminate any standing water. If there is any water you can’t eliminate, use a mosquito dunk. This will kill all mosquito larvae and prevent reinfestation. But, don’t fall into the trap of buying useless ultrasonic repellent devices.