If the mosquitoes are swarming, here's a fresh tip: Maybe you need to change your socks. Or better yet, use a smelly pair to divert those pesky bugs somewhere else entirely.
A team of scientists is getting a chunk of cash from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada, a government-funded development agency, to develop special mosquito traps to prevent malaria in Africa - using the grungy stink of dirty socks.
"It's a bold idea," Peter A. Singer, a physician who heads Grand Challenges Canada, told the Washington Post. "Who would have thought there was a life-saving technology working in your laundry basket?"
The story goes that a Dutch scientists named Dr. Bart Knols discovered this secret by bravely standing naked in a dark room with a bunch of mosquitoes and seeing what parts of him they enjoyed snacking on the most. His feet, as it turned out.
Now, project leader Dr. Fredros Okumu, at the Tanzania's Ifakara Health Institute hopes to put the finding to good use, and save some lives. The project will try to determine the best way to make socks smelly, by comparing, for instance, the success of socks worn by adults for one day versus cotton pads that children will insert into their socks for the day. The hope is that the traps will be developed within two years.
In lab, dirty socks were shown to worked just as well as a chemical that duplicated the smell - attracting four times as many mosquitoes as humans.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, the city of Regina has announced plans to dump another $200,000 into their mosquito fighting program, bringing the total to $500,000. And in Winnipeg, where the bugs are famously bad, the province has agreed to reduce the city's spray buffer zone. Over in Parkhill, Ont., a town outside London, where the bugs are crowding out the humans, there will be a public meeting tonight to decide how to fight them.
We suggest that everyone attending leave their socks at home.