Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Put Away Your Smelly Socks

By Magdeline Lum

Magdeline Lum reports on quirky experiments and research findings.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

There may now be a good reason to place smelly socks into the laundry basket rather than leaving them on the floor – the odour may be luring spiders. Fortunately, the spider that is attracted to pungent socks is after a fine dining experience on mosquitoes engorged on human blood. A sweaty sock may be an unfavourable dining place, but for mosquitoes it is the perfect place to set up base camp to gorge on human blood.

This latest finding could lead to new ways to trap mosquito carriers of the deadly malaria parasite and to also lure their predators. All mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite belong to the genus Anopheles. Research has shown that the species Anopheles gambiae is drawn to the scent of humans.

Researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have found that the East African jumping spider, Evarcha culicivora, prefers Anopheles mosquitoes as its preferred meal. This comes after finding that this spider can sniff out blood-engorged mosquitoes.

Two New Zealand scientists, Fiona Cross and Robert Jackson, bred a group of adult and juvenile E. culcivora and exposed them to human scent. The scent was sourced from cotton wool socks worn by an anonymous male donor for 12 hours before the trial. The spiders spent significantly more time in chambers scented with smelly sock than in chambers without.

The levels of carbon dioxide,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.