7 Reasons Mosquitoes Bite Some People More than Others

by Melissa Breyer, Treehugger

Are you a magnet for mosquitoes? Understanding why mosquitoes bite people more than others can be useful in avoiding them.

Zika, West Nile, Malaria, Dengue … the disconcerting catalog of illnesses spread by the flying disease-delivery vehicles known as mosquitoes is an ever expanding thing. And along with vector-borne diseases, mosquitoes and their diabolic hypodermic mouthparts offer no shortage of itchy welts, meanwhile their crazy-making hum can keep the soundest of sleepers swatting at their faces all night.

Do you make mosquitoes swoon? I seem to have won the mosquito lottery – they don’t want to have anything to do with me. Others aren’t so lucky, studies show that 20 percent of people are especially irresistible. “High attractor types” is what Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida in Vero Beach, calls the unfortunate group.

Day says that the two most compelling factors of mosquito attraction have to do with sight and smell – which seems obvious, but it’s not a given that the mysteries of mosquitoes would be clear.

There are all kinds of wives’ tales about what attracts and repels – eating bananas actually doesn’t lure mosquitoes nor does vitamin B-12 repel them – but scientists think the following factors likely do come into play. Some of these we can’t do much about, but anything to help avoid the pests and reduce the use of dicey chemicals is worth the effort.

Are you a magnet for mosquitoes? Understanding why mosquitoes bite people more than others can be useful in avoiding them.

Why Mosquitoes Bite You

1. Apparel

As mentioned above, mosquitoes actually use their eyes to target victims. Jay explains that mosquitoes are highly visual, “especially later in the afternoon, and their first mode of search for humans is through vision.” Wearing dark colors (navy, black) and red make you easier to spot, says Jay. (Note to self: Check camouflage summer wear.)

2. Blood Type

It’s all about the blood for mosquitoes; well that and nectar. Adult mosquitoes survive on nectar for nourishment, but females rely on the protein in our blood for the production of eggs. So it’s little surprise that some blood types may be more desirable than others.

Research has found, in fact, that people with Type O blood are found to be twice as attractive to mosquitoes than those with Type A blood; Type B people were in the middle. In addition, 85 percent of people produce a secretion that signals what blood type they are; mosquitoes are drawn to those 85 percent more than the non-secretors, regardless of blood type.

3. Gas

Mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide up to 160 feet away; so the more one exhales, the more attractive they become. Larger people exhale more. Also to note, since human beings exhale carbon dioxide through the nose and mouth, mosquitoes are attracted to our heads, which explains the whole “mosquitoes buzzing about the ears all night” misery.

4. Heat and Sweat

Mosquitoes apparently have a nose for other scents besides carbon dioxide; they can sniff down victims through the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other compounds emitted in sweat. They also like people who run warmer; a hot sweaty human must seem quite delicious to them – couch potatoes, rejoice.

Strenuous exercise increases the buildup of lactic acid and heat in your body, Smithsonian points out, while genetic factors “influence the amount of uric acid and other substances naturally emitted by each person, making some people more easily found by mosquitoes than others.”

5. Lively Skin

Some research has shown that the types and amount of bacteria on one’s skin can play a role in brining on the mosquitoes as well. Our dermal casing is naturally teeming with microscopic life, and the whole shebang creates a distinct fragrance.

In one study, a group of men were divided into those who were highly attractive to mosquitoes and those who were not. The delicious ones had more of certain microbes on their skin than the unattractive ones, but fewer types – a larger community but less diverse. The bacteria factor could also explain why some mosquitoes are drawn to ankles and feet, an especially ripe source of bacteria.

6. Pregnancy

Women with a bun in the oven are probably those least wanting to attract mosquitoes, but alas, some species are evidently more attracted to pregnant women than women who are not.

One study in Africa found that pregnant women are twice as attractive to malaria carrying mosquitoes as non-pregnant women; researchers believe it is due to an increase in carbon dioxide – they found that women in late pregnancy exhaled 21 percent greater volume of breath than non-pregnant women.

They also discovered that the abdomens of pregnant women were 1.26°F hotter, adding to the mosquitoes-like-warm-bodies component.

7. Beer

Who knew mosquitoes had a taste for beer? The little lushes. In one study researchers found that significantly more mosquitoes landed on study participants after drinking a 12-ounce beer than before. T

he scientists figured that it was due to increased ethanol content in sweat and skin temperature from consuming the brew, but they were unable to find the exact correlation, just that it happened. So nobody knows why, clearly the crafty pests aren’t targeting inebriated folks as easy marks, but it does seem to be a thing.

Do mosquitoes love you? Have you found good ways to keep them away?

Via SmithsonianNBC News

Related at Care2

Images via Thinkstock.

52 comments

Shirley P
Shirley Plowman16 days ago

THEIR BITES CAN REALLY CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR SOME PEOPLE AND MISERY!

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Kerrie G
Kerrie G21 days ago

Thank you.

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silja s
silja salonen22 days ago

not too attractive to these suckers ..

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Danii P
Danii P26 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Danii P
Danii P26 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Amanda M
Amanda M27 days ago

Lucky me! I live in light-colored T-shirts and military pants in the summer, I use citrus-scented soap (supposedly a bug repeller), and I don't drink unless I'm inside for the night. Unfortunately, I sweat worse than a pig and I'm Type O. Which means that I have to use repellent ALL THE TIME when I go outside, to the point where I only half joke that from May through November (or whenever Maryland finally gets a good freeze) that my unofficial perfume is "Eau de Bug Dope!" Summer may be fun for most people, but for me it's nothing but sweat and stink and mosquitoes biting you clear through the bug dope. UGH.

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Siti Fatimah S
Siti Fatimah S29 days ago

I have Type O blood but mosquitoes hate me (lucky me!) while my mom who have Type A blood is very well loved by mosquitoes.

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Jeramie D
Jeramie Dabout a month ago

I don't drink beer and have Type A blood and those little buggers love me. Ick. Makes me not like summer.

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Andrea B
Andrea Babout a month ago

Eh ...
They just love me

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Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

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