You have undoubtedly heard it time and time again; there’s just something about you, in particular, that mosquitoes adore. But, how true is this statement? Unfortunately, it all boils down to one trait you carry; your smell. No matter the perspective, mosquitoes all boast acute receptors, which can detect scents that are up to 100 feet away. But if mosquitoes are working by smell, what is it that makes some folks “sweeter” than others? Are mosquitoes attracted to particular human scents? Science is still learning about exactly how mosquitoes pick their targets, but chances are if you seem to get more mosquito bites than your friends, or fewer mosquito bites, it’s something about your smell.
Mosquitoes Hunt By Odor
Odor is the primary indicator that female mosquitoes—which are the mosquitoes that bite—utilize to choose their prey. With that said, all mosquito species are different. While some will bite anyone or anything warm-blooded (including cows, cats, dogs, birds or humans) other species prefer to feast solely on humans. These species include the Aedes aegypti (the main carrier of Zika virus), and the Anopheles gambiae, which typically go for the feet and ankles over other exposed areas of the human body.
Generally, there are a few different kinds of scents that a mosquito is guaranteed to be particularly attracted to. Unfortunately, the more of these scents you consciously or unknowingly produce, the more likely you are to be an attractant to mosquitoes.
Every time you exhale, you are sending out a beacon to any mosquitoes hanging out within a 100-foot radius. Mosquitoes utilize sensors around their mouths to be able to detect carbon dioxide. Every warm-blooded creature releases carbon dioxide as they respirate, so a mosquito can be pretty sure that where there’s CO2, there’s blood. The plume of carbon dioxide you emit with each breath allows a mosquito to focus in on you as a target.
So it makes sense that the more carbon dioxide you produce, the easier you are to identify in the eyes of a mosquito. But if every breath releases carbon dioxide, is there a way to avoid being noticed? Well, you could try not breathing, but that won’t last long. However, some factors can increase your carbon dioxide output. On average, heavier people and pregnant women produce more carbon dioxide than others. Exercise that raises your metabolic rate (i.e., makes you huff and puff) also causes you to release more carbon dioxide. So if you just got done running and are a bit short of breath, you may be surprised at all the mosquitoes that are trying to keep up with you.
Blood type is another factor in attracting mosquitoes. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over this one. Humans have four main blood types, which all give off different scents. Studies have found that mosquitoes are particularly partial to Type O blood, while they aren’t so infatuated with Type A.
So to all of those with Type O blood, be sure you lather up with some form of repellent and wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothes unless you want to be surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes. And if you are a lucky Type A, still be sure to follow safety procedures around mosquitoes. It only takes one bit to keep you up all night itching, or worse, to transmit a serious disease.
Fragrances, such as perfume, cologne, and scented lotions are a known attractant of mosquitoes. Floral scents are the biggest attraction for mosquitoes. It turns out those lady mosquitoes love a flowery fragrance. So when you’re addressing the issue of body odor, be sure to avoid washing with fragranced body wash. Also, for the sake of the mosquitoes and everyone around you, avoid taking any shortcuts by masking your personal scent with colognes or perfumes. We can all smell you, and so can the mosquitoes.
If you want to get serious about avoiding bites from mosquitoes, consider switching to unscented body washes and lotions.
Some new research indicates that it’s not just what you put on you that attracts mosquitoes, it’s what lives on you. The human body is covered in trillions of bacteria and microorganisms. Now don’t go running off and lathering up in hand sanitizer. These aren’t bad bacteria. In fact, these bacteria perform an important function. They outcompete harmful bacteria so that the bad ones can’t take over and make you sick.
Sweat is a major source of nutrition for your skin bacteria. It is rich in minerals and proteins that are great for microorganisms. These bacteria are what give sweat its odor, and why everyone’s sweat smells a little different. No two humans have the exact same microbiome living on their skin. However, since these bacteria, specifically their waste, create such a distinct smell, mosquitoes can use that to hone in on potential targets.
Mosquitoes may notice the smell of your skin biome, but not all bacteria are equally appealing. In a recent study, scientists collected the unwashed, sweaty body odor of 48 men and used each one as a test bait for mosquitoes. Of the 48 men and their body odors, 9 were particularly attractive to mosquitoes, while 7 seemed particularly unattractive. It turns out that the 9 attractive odors all came from men with a high level of two particular strains of bacteria. The 7 men who seemed less attractive had fewer of those bacteria and an overall more diverse microbiome.
So is there a way to cultivate a specific microbiome on your skin to keep the mosquitoes at bay? Scientists haven’t quite figured that one out yet, but you can be sure that someone is trying.
Other Ways to Fight Off Mosquitoes
Controlling how you smell is one way to try to avoid mosquitoes. Some smells are within your control, while others are not. But if you really want to keep the mosquitoes away, you’ll have to do more than breath less, have Type A blood, switch to unscented shampoo, and cultivate an unattractive microbiome. The best way to keep the mosquitoes away from you is to kick them off your property.
Mr. Mister has two ways of keeping your entire property mosquito-free. The first method is with our ClearZone™ Misting Service. A technician will come to your home once every three weeks. On their visit, they will move around your yard and spray a special solution on your vegetation. The solution sticks to the underside of leaves and stays there for up to 21 days. It kills living mosquitoes and prevents new mosquito eggs from growing into adults. Mr. Mister’s solution is also safe to children and pets and rain resistant.
If you want to avoid the need for regular return visits, you might be interested in an automated misting system. This system is installed around your yard similar to an irrigation or sprinkler system. But instead of delivering water to thirsty plants, it delivers a mosquito killing and repelling solution. The spray is timed with an automated system to release at just the right time of day to catch as many mosquitoes as possible while affecting other creatures as little as possible. Plus, the solution will stick around well after you spray, so you get 24/7 coverage.
We hope you’re finding our Atlanta Mosquito Control blog helpful and informative! For more information on what makes Mr. Mister Atlanta’s premier provider of innovative mosquito control solutions and techniques click here.