You may not think of mosquitoes as particularly discerning creatures, but they seem to have likes and dislikes just like anybody else. You may know this if you frequently find yourself the victim of hungry mosquitoes as you sit around the campfire, while your companions escape relatively unscathed. It turns out mosquitoes are drawn to different types of people. Unfortunately, they don’t choose their victims based on character traits. Here are several reasons mosquitoes may find you particularly tasty, and how to keep them away.
11. Mosquitoes Are Attracted to Carbon Dioxide
According to Terminix, the female mosquito attacks humans to obtain the blood necessary to feed her eggs. The first thing that attracts the mosquito is the carbon dioxide given off in a human victim’s breath. For this reason, heavy mouth breathers may initially attract more mosquitoes than those who give off less noticeable gusts of carbon dioxide. Terminix states that a mosquito can detect strong concentrations of carbon dioxide from as far as 150 feet away.
10. Mosquitoes Like Sweat
Human sweat provides a cocktail of aromas that are attractive to mosquitoes. Sweating releases chemicals onto the skin and into the air, which are detected by mosquitoes and draw them in for a meal. Individuals who sweat profusely, or those who haven’t showered in a while, may find themselves more attractive to pesky mosquitoes. Additionally, people who are active or in constant motion may produce more of the CO2 and lactic acid found in sweat that attracts mosquitoes.
9. Mosquitoes Prefer Certain Types of Bacteria
Sweat itself does not have an aroma. Bacteria that live on human skin react with sweat to form chemicals that give off a particular odor. Terminix asserts that the uric acid, lactic acid, and ammonia produced by bacteria give off particular smells that may attract mosquitoes differently. Each individual person has a different mix of bacterial flora inhabiting the skin. Therefore, mosquitoes may be attracted to one person over another, depending on the person’s particular skin flora.
8. Mosquitoes May Prefer Type O Blood
A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that mosquitoes were more likely to feast on victims with blood type O than any other blood type. Additionally, subjects with type A blood were far less likely to suffer mosquito bites than those with O, B, or AB types. Since you can’t change your blood type, if you have type O blood you might want to stick close to a sweatier, mouth-breathing, type O buddy. Hopefully, he will attract the mosquitoes instead of you.
7. Mosquitoes Like Beer Drinkers
If you notice more mosquitoes buzzing around after you’ve consumed a bottle of beer, that’s because the ethanol given off by your skin is also attractive to mosquitoes. Additionally, the consumption of alcohol raises your body temperature, which also causes you to sweat more. Insect Cop reports that mosquitoes carrying diseases such as malaria or dengue fever are particularly attracted to the smell given off by beer drinkers. If you are hiking in the tropics, you may want to stick to drinking water.Related: 13 Everyday Items That May Help You Banish Ants from Your Home
6. Some People React More Strongly to Mosquito Bites
The size of your mosquito bite does not reflect the strength of the mosquito that bit you. The reaction to bug bites depends on a person’s immune system, not on the potency of the pest that bites. Children generally react more violently to bug bites. They may find themselves with large, red, itchy bumps that are difficult to avoid scratching. Adults, who have been exposed to mosquito bites over a long period, tend to become desensitized and have lesser reactions. Skeeter syndrome is an inflammatory allergic reaction to mosquito bites characterized by redness, swelling, and pain.
5. Will Eating Certain Foods Repel Mosquitoes?
Some old wives’ tales advocate eating garlic or ingesting vitamin B12 to keep pesky mosquitoes at bay. Unfortunately, a study by the University of Connecticut found that human consumption of garlic had no effect on the feeding habits of hungry mosquitoes. The same is true for daily doses of B vitamins. Despite these measures, female mosquitoes continue to bite to nurture their eggs.
4. Avoiding Mosquitoes
The best way to protect yourself against mosquito bites is to avoid areas where they congregate. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in or near water sources. Keep your yard free from standing water and empty any outdoor birdbaths, flowerpots, or buckets that may collect water. Ensure your windows and screen doors are free from rips or tears that could allow mosquitoes to enter your home. If you must be outside during the prime mosquito hours between dusk and sunrise, wear long pants and long sleeves and use mosquito repellent.Related: 12 Creepy Critters You Don’t Want to Bug You This Summer
3. Chemical Mosquito Repellents
The most effective chemical mosquito repellents contain DEET. This chemical is effective in warding off mosquitoes and preventing the transmission of diseases such as West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that insect repellents containing this chemical are safe when used according to the directions. In addition to mosquito-borne diseases, DEET prevents diseases carried by ticks such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
2. “Natural” Mosquito Repellents
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) comes from lemon eucalyptus trees and is a more natural agent for deterring mosquitoes. While the names are similar, it is not the same as lemon eucalyptus essential oil. OLE can be found in products such as Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. Another form of insect repellent is picaridin. This is not a natural compound. However, it was designed to mimic the effects of piperine found in black pepper and appears to interfere with an insect’s ability to smell the victim.
1. Treating Mosquito Bites
Sometimes a determined mosquito will inevitably find a way to sink her proboscis into your skin. When that happens, there are a variety of ways to treat the ensuing redness, itchiness, and discomfort. It is crucial to avoid scratching the itchy bumps, since scratching them can break the skin and introduce infection. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommends treating itchy bug bites with ice. Over-the-counter products that contain calamine or hydrocortisone can help with itching. Additionally, antihistamines like Benadryl can relieve itching while decreasing the inflammation caused by an immune system reaction to the bite.Related: Beware of the Kissing Bug