In 2006 Dutch scientist Bart Knols observed that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are attracted to smelly human feet, convincing fellow scientist Renate Smallegange’s to follow in his smelly footsteps devising mosquito traps using human foot odour. Knols figured out that when standing up, mosquitoes would go for people’s feet, prompting Smallegange to zoom in on this discovery. At Wageningen University she collects people’s smelly socks to carry out research on trapping mosquitoes who transmit malaria through their bite, affecting millions of people every year.
According to this radio interview, carbon dioxide is what first attracts mosquitoes to people, however since 2006, we also know that smelly feet do that as well. She explains that clean socks are not attractive at all to mosquitoes, smelly socks are very attractive, but when you add carbon dioxide, you could trap roughly 45 to 75% of all malaria-carrying mosquitoes. And the sock only needs to be worn for a day!
No, foot odour doesn’t work on ‘regular’ mosquitoes, and yes, the idea is to design traps with a specific built-in odour, not some African villager’s dirty socks or shipping socks over to Africa.