For a small insect, mosquitoes can be quite aggravating. A common topic of conversation when mosquitoes are out and biting is why certain people seem to be the target of mosquitoes and not others.
What Attracts Mosquitoes to Humans?
Let’s take a look at why mosquitoes like to bite us, what makes them choose some people over others and what we can all do to protect ourselves from these pesky pests.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite?
Did you know all of the mosquitoes who bite you are females? They seek out warm-blooded creatures for a meal. The mosquito’s proboscis, a part of its mouth, works like a hypodermic needle. She injects a little of her own saliva into our skin, which thins the blood and allows her to draw it out of the capillaries in your skin.
The mosquito doesn’t drink your blood for herself but uses the proteins and other substances in the blood to help her develop her eggs.
Why are Some People More Attractive to Mosquitoes?
Scientists know that mosquitoes use a variety of different senses to find their next meal. They can sense smells, body heat and other factors. Based on research, these are just some of the qualities that mosquitoes seek out:
- Genetics and body chemistry. Up to 85% of our susceptibility to mosquitoes may come from our genetic profile (thanks, Mom & Dad!). Scientists have discovered as many as 400 different chemicals that can be found on our skin. People who produce excess amounts of uric acid, or have larger than average concentration of chemicals like steroids or cholesterol on their skin, can smell like a tasty treat to a mosquito. And beyond that, thanks to our individual cocktails of bacteria, perspiration and other aspects of our physical makeup, mosquitoes find some of us more irresistible than others.
- Blood type. This factor is a bit controversial. Some scientists say there is no correlation between our blood type and popularity by mosquitoes but one study indicated that Type O blood was twice as popular with mosquitoes as Type A, with Type B blood in the middle.
- Carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes can smell us from up to 50 yards away, thanks to the carbon dioxide in our exhaled breath. This bodes poorly for larger people (and adults over children) as well as pregnant women, all of whom tend to give off more carbon dioxide.
- Heat. Mosquitoes are picky. They like to find their next meal where it’s warmest, and where blood is close to the surface. They prefer areas of the body with more blood vessels and where the blood is closer to the skin, such as the face, wrists, elbows and neck. People who are overheated or who just exercised will also have more blood on the skin’s surface and mosquitoes will zoom in on them.
- Lactic Acid. One of the chemicals in our sweat is lactic acid and mosquitoes apparently are drawn to it like bees to honey.
- Clothing. Dark clothing helps us stand out against the sky, making it easier for mosquitoes to see us. Colors that make their jobs easiest include black, dark blue and red.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away
So if mosquitoes love people who like to have fun outdoors, is the solution just to stay inside all day? Of course not. There are lots of ways to prevent becoming a mosquito feast.
- Maintain the yard. Keep the lawn mowed and remove unnecessary brush and trash piles.
- Don’t allow standing water. Add nontoxic mosquito dunks to ponds, fountains and birdbaths.
- Use insect repellents with DEET or picaridin, or try the herbal repellents that include lemon eucalyptus.
- Wear light-colored clothing and when possible wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks.
- Avoid outside activities around dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
- When entertaining outdoors, burn candles or torches with citronella oil and try using fans to discourage and confuse mosquitoes, who won’t be able to smell or sense body heat with the constant breezes.
One trick that doesn’t work is diet. Researchers haven’t found any evidence that what we eat and drink make us taste bad to mosquitoes (though there is some evidence that drinking beer makes us more attractive—to mosquitoes, at least!). Scientists reject common remedies such as eating garlic or taking vitamin B supplements, which they say have no effect whatsoever against mosquitoes.
Get a Helping Hand with Mosquitoes
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you and your family are simply too irresistible to your neighborhood mosquitoes, it’s time to call out the pros. Give your friends at ABC Home & Commercial Services a call. We offer lawn care and yard maintenance services, and we also discuss our mosquito and other insect control options with you.