Have you ever wondered why some people get bitten by mosquitoes and others don't? It's not just chance. About 10 to 20 percent of people are mosquito magnets due to their body chemistry, scientists say. Here are some things that mosquitoes find irresistible.
Body Odor and Heat
Mosquitoes are very sensitive to scents produced when you sweat, such as ammonia, lactic acid, and uric acid. The more you perspire and the more it soaks into clothing (like socks or T-shirts) the more bacteria build up on your skin (especially if you're exercising or working outside and getting dirty), making you more attractive to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are also attracted by the heat our bodies produce; the bigger you are, the more attractive a target you become.
Perfumes, Colognes, Lotions
In addition to natural body odors, mosquitoes are also lured by chemical scents from perfumes or colognes. Floral scents are particularly attractive to mosquitoes, research shows. They're also lured by skincare products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, which are a form of lactic acid that the bugs love.
Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide in the air, so the more you exhale, the more likely you are to become a blood meal. Mosquitoes usually fly in a zigzag pattern through the CO2 plume until they locate the source. Adults are especially attractive because they emit more carbon dioxide than children and pets.
It's a fact that mosquitoes thrive on proteins found in the blood. Although some researchers have argued that mosquitoes appear to be attracted to Type O blood in humans, other researchers have questioned the data behind this study. Some people also contend that mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, especially blue, and the odors of fermented foods like cheese or beer, but neither of these assertions has been proven true by scientists.
- There are more about 3,500 species of mosquito throughout the world. About 170 species can be found in the United States.
- Only female mosquitoes feed on blood, which they need in order to produce eggs. Male mosquitoes do not bite, preferring the nectar of flowers.
- Biting mosquitoes can spread diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever, yellow fever, the Zika virus, and the West Nile virus. There are more than 30 species of mosquito that carry these diseases, and they're found on every continent except Antarctica.
- In the U.S. six species are responsible for spreading disease. The two most common are the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). The yellow fever mosquito is found in warm climates from California to Florida, while the Asian tiger thrives in the Southeast and East Coast.
- Cheshire, Sara. "What Makes Me So Tasty? 5 Myths About Mosquito Bites ." CNN.com. 17 July 2015.
- Heubeck, Elizabeth. "Are You a Mosquito Magnet?" WebMD.com. 31 January 2012.
- Rueb, Emily. "Peril on Wings: 6 of America's Most Dangerous Mosquitoes ." NYTimes.com 28 June 2016.
- Stromberg, Joseph. "Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?" Smithsonian.com. 12 July 2013.