Stepping outside during certain times of the year requires a layer of clothing and mosquito repellent—otherwise, you risk getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Even when you spray yourself down, you still may find yourself complaining to friends and family, “I have a million mosquito bites on my foot!” and asking yourself, “Why Do mosquitoes bite ankles?” Why is it that these pesky critters always seem to find us and bite that one spot that we missed? Researchers have been studying the behavior of mosquitoes to see what repels and attracts these biting bugs.
Why Is There A Mosquito Bite On My Foot?
According to a story on National Public Radio, researchers at the University of California, Riverside have learned that mosquitoes use specific sensors near their mouths to determine the presence of carbon dioxide. If carbon dioxide is in the area, mosquitoes assume that humans or animals that provide the blood they feed upon are present in the area. It isn’t just the presence of carbon dioxide that attracts mosquitoes, though. If that were the case, they’d fly directly into our mouths. These pests actually use a combination of information to figure out where to bite: the presence of carbon dioxide and the different body odors that come from our feet, faces, armpits and other body parts.
These scientists also learned that mosquitoes are drawn to human body odor in particular, but they weren’t sure exactly how. To test out specific body odors, the researchers asked a handful of study participants to rub their feet on a set of glass beads. These beads were then placed in the same area as several species of mosquitoes, and the mosquitoes identified them immediately! The results indicate that mosquitoes are more attracted to the human foot than some other body parts, which can explain why we tend to get more bites there, particularly in the months that mosquitoes are more active. Other studies have indicated that bacteria present on our feet may be particularly irresistible to these biting pests.
The scientists then applied the same chemical from previous trials, butyryl chloride, to see if the mosquitoes would be unable to locate the glass beads. Only about 20 percent of the mosquitoes could find the “stinky” beads after the chemical application. In addition to these trials, the researchers tested mosquitoes’ response to a range of other smells. Mint was the biggest attractor of the group, while the smell of green fruit repelled the mosquitoes for around five minutes. These tests can help indicate what types of repellents can block the insects’ sensors and help us get bitten less in the future.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Ankles?
What’s the main reason that mosquitoes go right for our feet and ankles? As we mentioned before, our feet produce higher numbers of stinky bacteria than other parts of our bodies, so mosquitoes are able to more easily identify our feet via smell. Mosquitoes may have also learned over time to that we’re not as prone to slapping mosquitoes in that area of our bodies. Another reason these pests may strike more on our ankles is that we’re less likely to cover up these body parts, so they are an easy, predictable place for them to target during the summer months when mosquitoes are most active.
What would happen if you try covering up your natural smell by taking lots of showers or loading up on perfume? Mosquitoes can smell through your perfume or cologne, according to scientists. What really works in terms of stopping mosquitoes is blocking their receptors, which is what the chemical DEET does and why the compound is found in so many repellents.
With this new knowledge in mind, what’s the best way we can avoid mosquito bites? Make sure to apply the appropriate amount and strength of mosquito repellent for your area. Higher concentrations of chemicals such as DEET are required when in remote jungle areas, for example. Once you have applied mosquito repellent, wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and thick socks to discourage mosquitoes from biting you. If all else fails, try to stay inside during prime mosquito-biting times, if possible: mid-morning and early evening.
How to Eliminate Mosquito Breeding Areas Around Your Home
Although it is unlikely you will get zero mosquito bites during peak season, you can take the following steps to reduce the number of bites and thus the chance of mosquito-borne disease:
- Keep areas in your yard and home clear of standing water. Mosquitoes can breed in a container as small as a glass of water.
- Don’t keep old tires in your yard. Tires retain rainwater which creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Keep your yard maintained. By mowing the lawn frequently and raking leaves, you make your yard less inviting for mosquitoes to breed.
- Replenish water in pet water bowls and bird baths so that mosquito larvae don’t have a chance to hatch.
- Treat water features with a mosquito dunk which kills the larvae.
- Encourage mosquito-eating animals to stick around on your property.
ABC Can Help You Manage Mosquitoes
ABC Home & Commercial Services has been working with homeowners for decades to help reduce mosquito populations. Through a variety of techniques, our mosquito pros implement measures to keep you from getting bitten and to protect your family and pets from mosquito-borne illness. With ABC’s pest control help, you can enjoy your yard without the hassle of dealing with buzzing and biting bugs.