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 important to prevent mosquito bites. 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 contains six thin needles that have different roles. The biting action is an incredibly complex operation.

When the mosquito has selected a 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. The labrum uses receptors that respond to chemicals in our blood to find a blood vessel. 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. 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 is a certain attire that makes it easier for the mosquitoes.

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

Wearing tight clothing 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 provides strong protection.

How To Prevent Mosquitoes Biting Through Your Clothes

Maybe you don’t want to wear thick loose clothing in the hot weather, and I can understand you. After all, your body temperature, or warmth, and sweat can make a difference to your attractiveness to mosquitoes. There are a few alternatives that can allow you to wear 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 six 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.

It should be noted that DEET can cause damage to plastics, including synthetic or treated fabrics. Even a small amount can damage an expensive piece of clothing, so check before using. DEET won’t damage natural fibers like cotton.

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

Have Your Own Clothing Treated

Another alternative to buying new treated clothes is to have your clothing treated by a repellent treatment service. At least one company, Insect Shield, has this service.

You send them your garments; they treat them and send them back to you. This costs more than treating the clothes yourself, but the repellent effect lasts five times longer than a permethrin spray.

Does Color Make A Difference?

Yes, research has shown that color can make a difference. The first mode of search for a mosquito is 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 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 repellent to any bare skin.

If you feel too hot in these 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. Then apply a DEET or picaridin mosquito repellent to any bare skin. Always follow label directions when using insect repellents. You can also check the EPA to see other repellents they recommend.

Wearing clothes like these can be good protection from mosquito-borne disease when in a mosquito-infested area. A head net is often overlooked; they are effective, light, easy to pack, and relatively cheap.

A head net with a wide-brimmed hat protects the face, ears, and neck. You need the hat to stop the netting from coming into contact with your skin. As with thin clothing, if the net is against your skin, the female mosquito’s proboscis will find a way through to bite you.

At night, in areas with heavy infestations, it is recommended to use mosquito netting around the bed.

Controlling the number of mosquitoes is the best form of protection. If it’s your garden, the first action should always be to eliminate any standing water to stop mosquitoes from breeding. If there is any water you can’t eliminate, use a mosquito dunk. This will kill all mosquito larvae and prevent reinfestation. For adult mosquitoes, mosquito traps and fogging will help. But, don’t fall into the trap of buying ultrasonic repellent devices; they don’t work.

FAQ

Can mosquitoes bite through bed sheets?

Yes, they can bite through sheets where the sheets are in contact with your body; but they prefer bare skin! If you’re in bed with your head outside the sheets, they will be more likely to go for your ears or face. If you’re in an area with an important infestation of mosquitoes, a bed net is a good solution.

Can mosquitoes bite through blankets?

If your blanket is thin and made with a loosely woven fabric, the mosquitoes will be able to bite through it. Thicker blankets with tightly woven fabrics will make it much harder for the mosquitoes to bite you.

Can mosquitoes bite through jeans?

Yes, they can bite through jeans, particularly skin-tight jeans. Thicker denim jeans will be more of a deterrent, they will probably look for an easier target.

Can mosquitoes bite through socks?

If you wear thick socks that don’t leave your ankles exposed you will probably avoid bites on your feet and ankles. Mosquitoes will bite through thin socks.
Mosquitoes seem to be attracted to our feet and ankles so make sure you are well protected with shoes, thick socks, and a repellent on any bare skin.