Ever wondered why mosquitoes prefer to bite humans. Or why some people get bitten by mosquitoes while others appear immune to the painful and itchy onslaught. Why is it that in a crowd only a few people are pierced by the bloodsuckers again and again!
People who live in areas populated by mosquitoes may have wondered about it at some point in their lives.
To understand the phenomenon behind mosquitoes biting preferences we first have to recognize how they behave.
What really attracts mosquitoes to bite and draw blood?
The answer is pretty simple yet complex enough to deserve an explanation.
In short mosquitoes are attracted to certain ‘smells’. The odor, scent, aroma etc., emitting from a person is what draws mosquitoes towards them. Mosquitoes may be tiny but they are equipped with a number of organs with one main goal; sense a warm-blooded human body.
What makes you a Mosquito Magnet?
There’s always that 1 poor soul out of a group of 10 people who gets bitten by mosquitoes more than once.
A specific reason for being bitten cannot be isolated however people can recognize the factors which make them a ‘Mosquito Magnet’. For instance there is a whole range of signals humans give off which attracts mosquitoes towards them.
There’s no single factor as to why someone is bitten and how badly, but let us take a look at a few:
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An average person releases a long list of odors every single minute. Even the simple process of breathing can be a signal.
Mosquitoes can detect the Carbon Dioxide exhaled by humans from a long distance away. So if a person who naturally exhales more concentrations of CO2 is more likely to tempt mosquitoes towards them.
For mosquitoes picking up carbon dioxide in the air is a mid to long range sensing method and they are very efficient at it. Larger people who exhale more CO2 are at greater risk of mosquitoes than smaller ones. Needless to say this is why some children are not bitten by mosquitoes as much as adults.
Human sweat can also entice mosquitoes towards their prey. Since the initial purpose is to reproduce, mosquitoes prefer moist places, such as sweaty skin.
Likewise perspiration released by the body contains biological compounds like uric acid, lactic acid and ammonia
The more nutrients a person’s sweat has the more likely they are to be a target of mosquitoes.
This also explains why mosquitoes are more likely to attack areas surrounding hands and feet which tend to sweat more and are usually exposed.
Floral scents and perfumes are another culprit responsible for getting people bitten, since mosquitoes are known to munch on flower nectar.
In fact the link between specific odors biting habits of mosquitoes may be more complex than we know.
A few years ago researchers found the family of mosquitoes responsible for spreading Malaria (Anopheles gambiae), likes to attack people who release an odor similar to Limburger cheese. This distinctive smell is produced by human bacteria living between the toes of people who naturally have smelly feet.
2) Body Temperature
Mosquitoes are known to thrive in tropical environments due to a higher temperature. In the same way the higher the body temperature a person has, the greater is their likelihood to invite mosquitoes.
Let’s not forget higher body temperatures also lead to more sweating which could an aiding factor. A person’s metabolism rate may also be an appealing factor for the mosquitoes.
Since the higher the metabolism rate the higher the body temperature. This ability also allows mosquitoes to detect the exposed areas of the skin where they can land and pierce skin to draw blood.
3) Clothing Color
As unexpected as it may sound the color of a person’s clothes is another deciding factor in attracting mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are known to be drawn towards darker colors. So if someone is wearing black, brown, green or red at a garden party they shouldn’t be surprised if they’re being bitten by mosquitoes repeatedly.
Mosquitoes are believed to be able to decipher colors from a distance and thereby single out their target.
The smell of alcohol on a person’s breath or the residual on their body is believed to be appealing to mosquitoes.
Drinking alcohol also raises the body’s temperature so it would be no surprise if a person if covered in mosquito bites after a long drunken night. Drinking beer was specifically found to increase a person’s chances of being infected with Malaria.
Unfortunately there’s no drink to prevent or stop a mosquito bite.
5) Blood Type
A person’s susceptibility to be bitten is also dependent on their blood type. A study carried out back in 2004 found mosquitoes choose to bite people with Type O blood more than other blood groups. They were found to land more on people with an O blood group.
Similarly mosquitoes are least likely to suck Type A blood. Someone with a Type O blood group has a 83 percent greater probability of attracting mosquitoes than others.
Pregnancy is an automatic stimulus for receiving mosquito bites. During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes changes which lead to release of more CO2 and a higher body temperature.
Pregnant women also tend to sweat more and are reported to receive twice the amount of mosquito bites than before.
Do mosquito bites always itch?
Recently scientists discovered not everyone is always aware of having being bitten by a mosquito. Some people just don’t have the itchy and irritating reaction we have come to recognize with mosquito bites.
Every human is unique and therefore their reactions to the residual saliva mosquitoes spit during feeding are different. However this non-reaction is even more worrisome since they might not even know they’ve been infected with a viral disease like malaria.
How to repel mosquitoes?
Educating oneself about what attracts mosquitoes is the key to avoiding them. For those looking to avoid mosquito bites a few precautionary methods can help them a long way:
- Avoid using skin products which give off a floral smell. For example products such as perfumes, sunscreens, shampoos, lotions, washing powder and fabric softeners with fruit and flower fragrances should be avoided.
- Don’t wear dark clothes if going to an area with a higher risk of mosquitoes. Wearing white or lighter colors can help avoid mosquito bites during an outing or an outdoor event.
- For people living in areas with a large population of mosquitoes it is advisable not to exercise during sunset or sunrise. These are the times mosquitoes are most active and more likely to feast on a sweaty body.
- Pass up on eating salty food which leads to increased excretion of potassium, lactic acid and uric acid on the skin. Since mosquitoes can detect nutrient filled blood via sweat and smell it is better not to eat salt rich foods before going out.
Did you know ?
Only female mosquitoes bite humans. Females suck blood to get the nutrients required for producing eggs.
Male mosquitoes do not attack humans and instead drink nectar from flowers. Human blood contains the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates, female mosquitoes need to reproduce fertilized eggs.
Female mosquitoes have a specialized mouth called the ‘proboscis’ which can pierce human skin. Likewise they have long antennae and highly sensitive odor-sensing structures called ‘palps’. Mosquitoes use these organs to detect human presence from more than 150 feet away. Remember just one bite from these parasites is enough to contract a deadly infectious disease.