Can Mosquitoes See?

Compound Eyes

Male and female mosquitoes see by using their two compound eyes for vision. Compound eyes are located on each side of the adult mosquito’s head and each eye is made up on hundreds of small lenses called ommatidia.

Wide Field of Vision

The multitude of ommatidia enables the mosquito to see from many directions at once. Without a doubt, vision is critical to the survival of adult mosquitoes since females depend upon three senses – sight, smell and movement - to locate hosts for their necessary blood meals.

Magnified picture of mosquito

Magnified picture of mosquito

How Females Find Hosts

The results of a study conducted in 2015 produced a model of how mosquitoes find hosts at various distances. The study authors hypothesized that:

  • Smell - From about 35-170 feet, female mosquitoes smell the host’s attractive gases such as carbon dioxide.

  • Sight - As the mosquito flies closer in response to the attractive carbon dioxide, it begins to see the host when about 15-50 feet away.

  • Sensing Body Heat - Continuing to use its visual cues, the mosquito moves even closer until it then senses the host’s body heat at a distance of less than four feet.

Can Mosquitoes See?

Mosquitoes can see; however, like most other insects, they generally do not get as clear an image of things as humans and many of their other vertebrate hosts. Nevertheless, they successfully use their other senses to more than make up for their visual shortfalls.

Resources

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