​​Can Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothing?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on September 8, 2018
    Last Updated: December 10, 2020

Mosquitoes are arguably one of the world’s deadliest predators. Their bites not only cause irritation, but can spread harmful diseases as well. Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is very important, especially in certain parts of the world where mosquitoes are known to carry such diseases.

You may think that you’re protected from mosquitoes so long as you’re fully clothed. However, this isn’t always the case. Let’s take a closer look at these pests and how they may have the ability to bite through clothes.

How Do Mosquitoes Bite?

It’s only the female mosquitoes that bite us and feed on our blood. They need blood to produce eggs. While both male and female mosquitoes have special features connected to their mouth that allow them to feed, a female has slightly more specialized ‘tools’ that allow her to feed on our blood.

Female mosquitoes bite us with their unique mouthpart, which is called a proboscis. The proboscis is equipped with six different needles, all of which perform different jobs during a bite. The first step of a bite involves two parts of the proboscis, which are called mandibles.

The mandibles work to open up the skin and make it much easier for two other needles to cut into the skin. The needles that saw into the skin are called maxillae. A mosquito’s maxillae work just like a drill, to effectively penetrate the skin.

mosquito feeding close

Once the skin has been sufficiently sliced open and cut into, something called the labrum takes center stage. The labrum is another one of the mosquito’s needles, and this particular needle enters the skin to extract blood. The labrum is essentially a mosquito’s personal, built-in straw.

Just before a mosquito sucks out blood, she will inject a small amount of her saliva. This saliva contains certain elements that prevent the blood from coagulating, thereby making it easier for her to extract her food. It’s the injection of this saliva that causes the spread of disease.

After a mosquito is satisfied and has fed on a sufficient amount of blood, the proboscis is retracted and the whole process is complete. However, one bite may not be enough to satisfy the female mosquito’s appetite. She will continue to feed until she’s full, which means you may be bitten a number of times by the same mosquito.

mosquito bites on leg

Interestingly, the whole process of penetration is painless to humans. The irritation of a mosquito bite is caused by a slight allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. If you’re interested in watching the process of how a mosquito bites, you can watch a video here.

Can Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes?

You may think that you’re protected from mosquito bites when you’re fully clothed. However, this is not always the case. Mosquitoes are actually more than capable of biting through your clothes, especially if the clothes are made of a very thin material.

Mosquitoes use their unique proboscis to slice through our clothing. The proboscis is capable of piercing not only through skin, but directly through woven fabric as well. A female mosquito uses her proboscis to pierce clothing in the same way she would if she had landed directly on your skin.

Once the mosquito has used the proboscis to break through the material, she will continue to pierce through your skin and feed. You’re more at risk of a mosquito biting through your clothes if you are wearing tightly fitted clothing.

Mosquitoes find it easier to bite through clothes that are fit closely to the skin, as they have more direct access to your skin underneath. If your clothing is made of thicker material and is loose fitting, a mosquito will have more difficulty biting you. This is because your skin is less likely to be in direct contact to the fabric underneath.

mosquito feeding through clothing

Mosquitoes will bite through thin bed sheets if they had to, but they much prefer bare skin. Being bitten in bed can sometimes be a result of fleas and not mosquitoes, especially if you have pets.

What to Wear to Prevent Mosquito Bites

There are a number of things to take into consideration when it comes to selecting clothing to help prevent mosquito bites. The first is the amount of coverage that your clothing is giving you. Whichever areas of skin are covered by the clothes are obviously a little more protected from bites than the exposed areas.

Wear long sleeves and full-length trousers, skirt, or dress. Mosquitoes are also very attracted to our feet and ankles, so make sure they are appropriately covered as well. In order to protect your feet, wear boots or closed shoes, with socks that cover your ankles.

Mosquitoes can also bite around our ears and necks. A good way to prevent this from happening is to wear a scarf. Make sure that your scarf is big enough to easily drape around your neck or around your head to cover the ears as well.

If you want total protection around your head and neck, you could wear a mosquito head net. This consists of a fine mosquito-proof net that is draped over a hat to give your face and neck complete protection against mosquitoes. This net can also extend down to protect your chest as well.

Clothing made of tightly-woven fabric will offer you the best protection. You can also reduce the chances of mosquitoes biting you through your clothes if they are made out of synthetic materials. Opt for clothing woven from a thicker fabric. The thicker it is, the more protection you will get from these pests.

A final point to consider is color. Mosquitoes are more likely to be attracted to dark clothing, as this makes you stand out more against the horizon. Avoid brightly colored clothes too. Try to wear light colored clothing, such as white, beige, or khaki. This will make it much more difficult for mosquitoes to spot you and bite through your clothes.