From their uncanny ability to avoid a swat to the itchy welt they leave behind, these blood-sucking pests are a huge nuisance. Mosquitoes bite humans and other animals because they need the proteins in our blood in order to reproduce. When they bite us, they inject a small amount of saliva, which numbs the area and keeps the blood from coagulating.
It’s not the mosquito’s bite itself, but the chemicals in this injection of saliva that cause our reaction. Mosquito bites are, in themselves, plenty annoying. Unfortunately, these little flying vampires can also carry and transmit serious diseases like:
- West Nile virus
- Yellow fever
- Dengue fever
- Zika virus
Even with mosquito bites that don’t carry these diseases, people with less robust immune systems, especially in children, the elderly and those with immune system disorders, can develop additional symptoms such as:
- Low-grade fever
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Swelling and blisters
- Allergies or asthma-like reactions
We all have to deal with mosquito bites from time to time. But, does it ever seem like they are always more interested in you than they are in anyone else at the picnic?
Well, that could actually be the case.
Studies have shown that the following factors play a role in making us more or less attractive to mosquitoes.
Mammals emit carbon dioxide from their lungs each time they exhale. Mosquitoes can detect this up to fifty yards away. This signals to them that there is a blood-bearing mammal within a convenient distance.
It may surprise you to learn that there are colors that attract mosquitoes. Most mosquitoes fly close to the ground and use a number of signals to find a creature to bite. One of the ways they can zero in on a person is if they are wearing dark colors. You may be able to evade bites by wearing lighter colors.
Just like our body can attract mosquitoes when expelling carbon dioxide, your sweat can attract mosquitoes as well. Scientists have hypothesized that people who secrete more lactic acid, ammonia or cholesterol on the skin are all more attractive to mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are attracted to heat sources. If you tend to “run hot” this may be drawing them to you. Also, wearing excessive clothing can trap and increase your natural body heat, producing the same effect. Try to wear light and airy clothing when it’s hot out to prevent your body temperature from rising.
Another theory in mosquito attraction is that specific blood types are more enticing to them than others. While the old adage that mosquitoes prefer people with “sweet blood,” isn’t true, various studies have suggested that people with type O blood seem to be more susceptible to mosquito bites, than those around them who have blood types B or A.
The specific reasons for mosquitoes’ preference for type O blood are still unknown.
Tests done using twins have shown that they can share an elevated attractiveness to mosquitoes. This may suggest an underlying genetic mechanism that they have in common through their genes has a part to play in their shared frequency of mosquito bites.
The natural bacteria on your skin can affect the odors and secretions from your body that attract or repel these bugs. Also, different bacteria from different areas of the body can see different results.
It’s believed that while those who tend to get the most bites around the head, neck and shoulders are attracting mosquitoes with carbon dioxide, those who tend to be bitten more around the upper arms, ankles, or feet, are being targeted, at least in part, due to the emissions from the bacteria that are more concentrated in those areas.
Other studies have shown that sometimes mosquitoes are drawn to bigger people over small body types in the same tests. This may be because the larger testers tend to generate more heat.
Consuming alcohol, especially beer, seems to attract more mosquito bites. Ethanol, which is emitted through sweat after consuming alcohol has been proven to be an attractant for mosquitoes.
According to one study published by the National Library of Medicine, “the percentage of mosquitoes landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction.”
Additionally, drinking alcohol can raise your body temperature, which can attract mosquitoes. And, if you opt for a carbonated alcoholic beverage, the drink will release carbon dioxide. This is another mosquito attractant.
Based on the attractants mentioned above, it only makes sense that pregnant women, who experience increased body temperature and metabolic rate, along with higher blood volume, would find themselves being a mosquito target. Studies have also shown that pregnant women exhale a higher volume of carbon dioxide than non-pregnant women.
When Do Mosquitoes Go Away at Night?
One common myth is that mosquitoes go away at night. Anyone who enjoys camping under the stars can attest that, unfortunately, this just isn’t true. While colder weather can drive away mosquitoes, sundown does not.
It also depends on the type of mosquito you’re asking about. Here in Texas, there are 85 different species of mosquitoes and these different species have different habits. While there are daytime biters who go away at night, such as the yellow fever mosquito and the Asian tiger mosquito, a majority of these species are active from dusk to dawn. This is why it may feel as if you never get relief from these pests.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to make yourself and your yard less attractive to mosquitoes.
Does Mint Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Peppermint oil is considered by many to be an alternative to using DEET or other manufactured products to repel mosquitoes, but its effectiveness has never been proven.
Some things you can do to discourage mosquito populations:
- Eliminate standing water to remove breeding areas for mosquitoes.
- Fans, both indoors and outdoors, not only make it hard for mosquitoes to track your scent but create disruptive air currents that they don’t like to fly in.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has approved Lemon Eucalyptus oil as a proven method to repel mosquitoes.
- Keep your lawn mowed, shrubbery trimmed, rake frequently and clear any excess underbrush that can be used by mosquitoes as a habitat.
- Love to fire up that outdoor grill? Next time, toss some fresh rosemary on the heat. Not only will this drive away mosquitoes, but it adds a lovely flavor to whatever you’re grilling!
The Problem With DIY
Unfortunately, with the possible exception of removing standing water, all of these tend to be short-term or single-shot solutions. And, even if you do your best to remove standing water on your property, mosquitoes only need a water bottle cap full of water to breed. Folks trying to deal with a seriously established presence of these bothersome bugs is likely to be a frustrating and uphill battle and, especially if you live near stagnant water sources, ultimately ineffective.
While the corner drugstore is loaded with mosquito sprays and products, few of them can target just mosquitoes and instead will wipe out everything they come in contact with, including insects that are beneficial, even vital to the ecosystems of gardens, orchards and ornamental flora.
Others can be dangerous to pets that come in contact with them. The main reason, however, that those over-the-counter solutions tend to have (very) short-term results, is that they target only the adult mosquito. Every adult female mosquito that’s buzzing around your head can produce up to 500 more mosquitoes in her lifetime, the vast majority of which are still hiding safely underwater in the form of eggs, larva or pupa…a life cycle that takes up to 10 days to reach maturity.
In other words, no matter how many mosquitoes you may control today with that aerosol spray, vast numbers are somewhere nearby, ready to take their place at any time during the next week.
The professional, on the other hand, is trained to know exactly where to look, and what to look for in a possible infestation. They have the knowledge, experience and equipment to get rid of mosquitoes. More importantly, they know how to find and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites.
Whether you’re concerned about a West Nile virus outbreak or are just tired of slapping yourself silly during backyard BBQs, your best bet is to contact a licensed professional and let fully-trained, experienced pest experts identify and deal with your pest problem.
ABC Can Reduce Mosquito Populations on Your Property
If you’re ready for relief from mosquitoes, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals will create a customized pest control plan. This way, mosquito season in Texas feels more bearable for you and your family members.