When I was younger, I thought it was all in my head how mosquitoes love me more than anybody else in my family. Because my blood or skin was “sweeter”, they said. Later, I thought it was a myth how some people are “mosquito magnets”, but it all turned out to be real. Some people do attract mosquitoes more than others, and here are some of the reasons why:
1. Blood type
For blood sucking insects, it’s all about that! Female mosquitoes depend on the protein in our blood for the production of eggs, therefore some blood types are more appealing to them than others. There’s evidence that blood type (O) attracts mosquitoes more than others (A or B), maybe even twice as much. Also, some people (about 85%) produce a secretion that indicates what type of blood they have. These people draw mosquitoes more than the remaining 15% of non-secretors, regardless of blood type.
2. Carbon dioxide
Mosquitoes can sense CO2 up to 50 meters away; so the more one exhales, the more delicious they seem, that’s why larger people are more prone to mosquito bites; because they exhale more. In addition, since human beings exhale through the nose and mouth, mosquitoes are attracted to our heads; explaining the whole “mosquitoes buzzing in our ears all night” dilemma.
Mosquitoes have a nose for a lot other than carbon dioxide; they can seek you out through lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other compounds emitted in sweat. Vigorous exercise increases the buildup of lactic acid and heat in your body and since mosquitoes also like people with higher body temperatures, being hot and sweaty after a workout will not be in your favor. Meanwhile, genetic factors influence the amount of uric acid and other substances naturally emitted by each person making some people stand out to the insects more than others.
4. Skin bacteria & body odor
Particular types and volumes of bacteria naturally grow and live on human skin. These bacteria affect one’s body odor, hence attractiveness to these miniature flying monsters. They might also be why it’s more common to have bites on our ankles and feet, because these areas are typically more prone to hosting bacteria.
Pregnant women and overweight people tend to have higher resting metabolic rates, therefore warmer bodies and high emission of carbon dioxide. Studies show that preggers exhale about 21% more CO2, giving mosquitoes all the reasons to frantically feast on them.
Apart from their sense of smell, mosquitoes use their eyes to target victims and they tend to fly towards dark colors such as black, navy or red, so wearing dark clothing will definitely make you an easier catch. That’s because mosquitoes tend to spot their hosts by comparing silhouettes to the horizon so dark colors stand out, while lighter shades blend in.
Understanding what lures the insidious insects helps keep them at distance. So if bug bites drive you crazy, now you can think of ways to avoid them such as:
- Take your workouts indoors in the summer or hurry up to the shower once you are done.
- Wash regularly to reduce bacteria and lactic acid build-up from your skin.
- Wear lighter colors.
- Wear protective clothing. This doesn’t mean covering your body with long sleeves and long pants, just lightweight, breathable fabrics will do.
- Avoid going out when humidity is at its peak; at dawn and dusk when the wind dies down, since mosquitoes have a hard time flying around in the wind and tend to keep close to the ground. If you can’t stay indoors at those times, fans can save you.
- Last but not least, the most obvious go-to; mosquito repellents.
Statistically, only about one in ten people is considered a “mosquito magnet”, so if you are one of those you might as well take your precautions.