Do Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes? What Makes It Harder For Them?

A close-up shot of a mosquito on skin.

When those warm summer months begin, our thoughts move toward barbecues, barefoot walks, and breezy clothes.

But once the temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit, mosquitoes start to become active, and by the time we are settling down for our Fourth of July celebrations, they are out in full force.

Do mosquitoes bite through clothes? Mosquitoes can bite through clothing, especially if the fabric is thin or loosely woven. Their proboscis can fit through the small gaps in the fabric easily. Avoid form-fitting and darkly colored clothing and use bug repellent to reduce your chances of being bitten.

What allows mosquitoes to bite even through clothing? What attract mosquitoes and how can you prevent bites? 

What threats or diseases do mosquitoes really bring with them? In the following, we’ll answer all that and more.  

Don’t miss our complete guide, “How To Get Rid of Mosquitoes,” for effective prevention and elimination strategies that actually work.

How Do Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothing?

A mosquito does not have to land on your skin in order to feast on you. As long as their proboscis (the tube-shaped mouthpart) is able to reach your skin, you’re fair game.

Although the spear-like, sucking mouthpart appears quite thin, its six needle-like devices will surely let you know you’ve been bitten.

You might think that any clothing covering your skin is going to act as a defense against mosquitoes, but many fabrics make it irritatingly easy to be bitten. 

Easiest Fabrics for Mosquitoes to Bite Through

Needless to say, gauzy, loose-knit, summery clothes provide easy access for the skeeters.

Additionally, voile, gauze, gingham, polyester, and cotton blends offer little to medium protection.

The wide weave of these fabrics means mosquitoes can easily reach your skin for a snack.

Coverage does not necessarily equate to safety.

Even spandex, a seemingly strong and high-coverage fabric, stretches, allowing enough room for a mosquito to reach its target.

Lightweight denim, such as found in jeggings or skinny jeans, also misrepresent their mosquito defense for the same reason.

Do Fit, Color, and Cut Make a Difference?

Even though looser fabrics mean easier access for mosquitoes and their proboscis, they do have a modicum of defense.

Dresses, skirts, or wide trousers made from these fabrics tend to lie further away from the skin. 

Simply due to the fact that they are farther away from the skin means mosquitoes would not be able to reach through for a bite.

Still, that benefit might be negated by the room in which a mosquito can bypass the fabric to reach the skin directly. 

On that point, coverage does play a factor.

Mosquitoes are most active during the summer months, meaning the wide necklines, shorter hemlines, stylishly ripped clothing, and your favorite flip flops all provide easy access points for the minuscule vampires. 

Finally, dark colors attract mosquitoes more than light-colored fabrics. Black, brown, and navy all work against you. However, red or light blue clothing is their favorite.

Let’s not forget, they are still bugs, so large floral prints and bright colors should be avoided for obvious reasons. 

Best Clothes to Prevent Bites

Heavy denim, tight-knit wool, corduroy, and even velvet can easily deter mosquitoes.

Needless to say, few people are sitting around summer bonfires draped in velvet. Still, it’s an option if you’re desperate. 

Light colors may not prevent them, but they won’t actively attract them, unless you have numerous day-biting skeeters in your area (learn why here).

Stick to neutral summer tones like white, beige, and soft grays, especially after dark.

Conveniently, these colors also help keep you cool in the dog days of summer. 

Another choice would be the innovation of bug-proof clothing! Clothing treated with permethrin can act as “insect shields.”

Commonly used for camping gear and even military uniforms, the idea of insect-repellent clothing is slowly becoming a mainstream option for dedicated bug haters. 

For instance, this long-sleeved treated shirt is stylish and comfortable to wear yet is permeated with naturally occurring permethrin to keep mosquitoes away.

Researchers are exploring new nanotechnology-treated clothing as a lightweight option, but this solution is still in its early phases.

What Are Mosquitoes Attracted To?

Body odor plays a factor in attracting mosquitoes. The smell of sweat, especially as it seeps into clothing nearest the skin, creates a strong attractant.

On top of that, body heat also acts as an advertisement for mosquitoes. 

Lotions and scented items, like perfume and cologne, act like a dinner bell for the nearby mosquitoes.

In the same way that body odor attracts, so do the chemical and flowery scents found in these items. (Unsurprisingly, given bugs are traditionally attracted to flowers.)

Specifically, mosquitoes are attracted to items using alpha-hydroxy acids. 

For that matter, diet can play a factor too. Mosquitoes are attracted to the lactic acid, salt, and potassium released by your body.

Additionally, the smell of alcohol releases a mosquito-attracting chemical. This is just bad news all around for those backyard barbecues.

And believe it or not, even breathing acts as a draw. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, and therefore our exhalations can act as a beacon. 

Tips for Preventing Mosquito Bites

Assuming you are not willing to spend your summer draped head to toe in pesticide-treated white velvet and not exhaling, what realistic options exist to prevent mosquito bites?

Wear Socks

Studies show that mosquitoes are most likely to bite ankles. They are attracted to our body odor, and our feet are pretty stinky.

Plus, the clever little devils know it is one of the least likely places to be swatted away or killed.

Obviously, a mosquito near your face would call more attention and likely suffer the consequences.

Additionally, in the warm summer months, pants, dresses, and footwear often leave our ankles bare and open to attack. 

Cover Up

Something is better than nothing. Even if you haven’t invested in nanotech or permethrin-treated clothing, any barrier to a mosquito having immediate access to your skin is helpful.

If you want to be persnickety about it, stick to light-colored, tightly-knit fabrics for your best bet. 

Bug Spray

You can spray your clothing with a proven bug repellent to create your own insect shield, though some express concern over the close proximity to the chemicals found in these sprays. 

There are all-natural, organic alternatives, like this family-safe spray, to consider. These typically make use of various essential oils to ward off not only mosquitoes but other bugs as well.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Avoid standing water where mosquitoes might congregate.

Most species of mosquitoes need a source of moisture to complete the life cycle, and stagnant water is a favorite spot for them to lay eggs.

You’ll find more details here.

Time of day is also a factor. Mosquitoes tend to be most active at dawn or dusk. 

Knowing the places where mosquitoes like to hide (read this to learn their favorite spots) can help you avoid areas where you’ll likely be nothing more than a mosquito buffet.

Invest in Bug Prevention

Wearable items that spray plumes of mosquito-deterring chemicals exist. Furthermore, oil and eucalyptus spray may be effective.

A citronella candle might do the trick, but studies suggest they might not be as effective as they claim.

Personally, I’ve always found the bucket-style citronella candles to be quite helpful, particularly when relaxing on the patio after dark.

TIKI 1418014 Brand 17 oz. BiteFighter Galvanized Citronella Wax Candle Metal Bucket Silver Torch, 5.00

Check Price on Amazon

In this article, we show you which other candles we’ve found to be effective in repelling mosquitoes both indoors and out.

Know Your Enemy: Scary Skeeter Stats

In 2018, the United States recorded 5,847 cases of mosquito-borne illness like malaria and yellow fever, though West Nile is most common.

During the Zika outbreak of 2016, there were 47,461 such cases. Globally, mosquitoes are responsible for over one million deaths, according to the World Mosquito Program

The likelihood of contracting a disease from a mosquito can vary by state.

Some studies suggest that in areas where instances of the West Nile virus exist, as few as one in 500 mosquitoes carry the disease

While disease from mosquitoes remains a threat, there are also allergic reactions known as “Skeeter Syndrome” to worry about.

This is usually recognized by a noticeably severe reaction to a common mosquito bite. 

Still, don’t panic. In 2012, a woman recorded over 700 bites from mosquitoes, and she seems fine. At least there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. 

However, while everyone agrees that mosquitoes are extremely annoying, their role in the ecosystem is still valuable.

They pollinate and act as a food source. And what’s more, scientists are exploring the benefits of mosquito saliva in cardiovascular disease

Summary

Yes, mosquitoes can bite through clothing. However, with some forethought, it’s possible to prevent and deter them.

Be cognizant of what scents you emit, what colors you wear, and where you stand. If all else fails, stay indoors. 

Need more information on long-term mosquito control and strategies to stop future infestations? Click here to see all of our mosquito articles.

Sources:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/want-repel-mosquitoes-don-t-use-citronella-candles

https://www.statista.com/statistics/856988/reported-mosquito-borne-disease-cases-total-number/

https://www.worldmosquitoprogram.org/en/learn/mosquito-borne-diseases

https://portal.ct.gov/Mosquito/Diseases/Mosquito-Transmitted-Diseases

https://recordsetter.com/world-record/mosquito-bites-collected-legs-during-45-hike/15591

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-good-are-mosquitoes-1968303

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