My husband is a mosquito magnet, so is my daughter. I do have a few bites now and then but not really that bad. Why do some people seem to attract mosquitoes and some rarely get bitten?
The two most important reasons a mosquito is attracted to you have to do with sight and smell. About 20 percent of people are high attractor types.
Mosquitoes are highly visual, especially later in the afternoon, and their first mode of search for humans is through vision. People dressed in dark colors — black, navy blue, red — stand out to mosquitoes and movement also attracts them.
Once the mosquito spots you, she (and it’s always “she” — only the ladies bite) then picks up on your smell. The main attractor is your rate of carbon dioxide production with every exhale you take. The heavier you breathe, the better the chance that she will find you.
Those with higher metabolic rates produce more carbon dioxide, as do larger people and pregnant women. Although carbon dioxide is the primary attractant, other secondary smells coming from your skin or breath mark you as a good landing spot.
Lactic acid (given off while exercising), acetone (a chemical released in your breath), and estradiol (a breakdown product of estrogen) can all be released at varying concentrations and lure in mosquitoes. Your body temperature, or warmth, can also make a difference. Mosquitoes may flock to pregnant women because of their extra body heat.
Studies show that it could be that individuals who get less bites produce chemicals on their skin that make them more repellent and cover up smells that mosquitoes find attractive. So, if you are a magnet, it might not be that you are more attractive, you are just less repellent than the others around you!
Mosquitoes don’t bite you for food, since they feed off plant nectar. Females suck your blood to get a protein needed to develop their eggs, which can then send more pesky insects into the world to annoy you.
Keep this in mind when you’re outdoors this summer: Mosquitoes are more attracted to people after they drink a 12-ounce beer. It could be that people breathe a little harder after a brew or their skin is a little warmer.
Here are more fun facts about mosquitoes and bites provided by the experts:
- Eating bananas will not attract mosquitoes and taking vitamin B-12 will not repel them; these are old wives’ tales.
- Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet.
- Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth.
- The size of a mosquito bite welt has nothing to do with the amount of blood taken and everything to do with how your immune system responds to the saliva introduced by the mosquito into your skin.
- The more times you get bitten by a particular species of mosquito, the less most people react to that species over time. The bad news? There’s more than 3.000 species worldwide.
Stay tuned…tomorrow I will compare repellents and other gadgets to help keep you itch free!