It’s not in your head. Mosquitoes really do prefer some people more than others. There as many factors, such as the chemicals you produce, the bacteria that grow on your skin, and even blood type. Scientists have isolated a number of factors in mosquito preferences, and a number of simple things you can do avoid mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes Really Do Bite Some People More
Have you ever heard someone say that your skin is just especially sweet? There may be some truth to this. While the actual sugar content of your skin doesn’t make much of a difference, the makeup of your skin’s microbiome does. Humans have trillions of bacteria that live on their skin. That’s what gives sweat its odor. But the types, levels, and variety of those bacteria can vary widely from person to person.
In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that certain types of bacteria tend to attract mosquitoes. The researchers had 48 men refrain from alcohol, garlic, and spicy foods (all of which can affect the odor of your sweat) for 48 hours. They also asked the men not to shower and to wear nylon socks for 24, all to help build up a particularly strong sampling of their natural odor. The researchers then rubbed glass beads against them men’s feet to pick up the odor and use them as mosquito bait.
Of the 48 men tested, 9 were especially attractive to mosquitoes, while 7 lucky men seemed largely uninteresting to the mosquitoes. In the men who attracted the mosquitoes “the abundance of Staphylococcus spp. was 2.62 times higher” than in the men whom the mosquitoes ignored, and “the abundance of Pseudomonas spp. 3.11 times higher”. In other words, an increase in these two common skin bacteria made those 9 men much more attractive to mosquitoes. On the other hand, men who were less attractive to the mosquitoes had a wider variety of bacteria on their skin, and lower levels of the two most attractive species.
Blood Type Affects Bites
Studies have also shown a correlation between certain blood types and an increase in mosquito bites. In a controlled setting (where other factors have been largely removed), people with Type O blood were the most attractive to mosquitoes. People with Type A blood were the least attractive, while people with Type B blood fell somewhere in between. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about your blood type. But there are enough other factors that you can control, that you still may have a chance to reduce your attractiveness to mosquitoes.
Carbon Dioxide Attracts Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes have a few ways of honing in on their victims. One of the most important ways is by locating sources of CO2, carbon monoxide. Using a special organ called a maxillary palp, mosquitoes can detect CO2 emitters up to 164 feet away. Everyone emits CO2 when they exhale, but not everyone produces the same amount.
In general, the rate of respiration (breathing in and out) affects your CO2 output. People who are larger or overweight have higher resting metabolic rates, as do pregnant women. If you just worked out, you also produce more CO2 due to your elavated metabolic rate, making you a larger target for mosquitoes. Children, on the other hand, tend to have lower metabolic rates and release less CO2, which is why children may be bitten less than adults. Of course, other factors affect children just like adults, so there is no hard and fast rule that children will always be less attractive.
Sweaty People Attract Mosquitoes
Besides looking for CO2, mosquitoes are drawn to lactic acid, a common chemical found in sweat. If you’ve just worked out you may be in trouble. You higher metabolic rate will attracts mosquitoes with your CO2 output and the lactic acid in your sweat attracts them, too. That’s a double whammy for the outdoor exerciser. To make matters even worse, workout sweat has more lactic acid than other types of sweat. That’s because as you work out, your muscles produce lactic acid, which the body excretes in sweat.
Wearing Dark Clothes
Classic etiquette dictated that you should wear white only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. While that rule was long ago dismissed by the fashion world, there may be some benefit to wearing white during the summer months when mosquito activity is at its peak.
In addition to odor, mosquitoes use vision to seek out their targets. They tend to fly low to the ground to avoid wind (more on that later), so they mostly rely on looking for dark silhouettes. Wearing dark clothing will make you stand out to a mosquito, while lighter clothing can function as mosquito camouflage. In addition, mosquitoes look for motion, which helps distinguish the silhouette of a possible meal from the silhouette of a tree or other inedible object. While it may seem that sitting still would make you an easy target for mosquitoes, the opposite may be true. The less you move, the less you stand out to a mosquito on the prowl.
Ways to Avoid Bites
Some things that attract mosquitoes are results of your DNA, like bloodtype. Others can be similarly hard to control, like your personal microbiome. But there are some simple ways to make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes.
Since mosquitoes are attracted to sweat, taking a shower before you head outside can help keep the bugs away. Of course, keeping off the sweat on a hot and humid Atlanta summer day may be tough, but some sweat is worse than others. Workout sweat has more lactic acid, which attracts mosquitoes, so take your workout indoors and shower before going back out.
Another useful thing to know about mosquitoes is that they hate wind. In fact, evena breeze of 1 mph makes it almost impossible for a mosquito to fly. To avoid the breeze, mosquitoes tend to fly close to the ground and in well sheltered areas. A small fan pointed right at you will make it much harder for mosquitoes to approach. And as an added bonus, it will also keep you cool and help reduce that mosquito attracting sweat.
Wearing light colored clothing makes it harder for mosquitoes to see you. So unless fashion dictates a dark colored outfit, go for light, summery clothing options that don’t make you the dark silhouette mosquitoes are looking for.
While a cool beer on a hot summer day may seem like a good idea, some studies show that as drinking little as a 12 ounce can of beer can make you more attractive to mosquitoes. One possible reason is that any alcohol increases your metabolic rate and your CO2 output, but that doesn’t fully explain the phenomenon. While researchers have not pinpointed the mechanism, drinking beer still seems to attract mosquitoes more than not drinking beer.
Avoid Peak Mosquito Activity Hours
Just picking the right time to go outside can make a huge difference. Mosquitoes tend to be most active during the dawn and dusk hours, when the breezes die down and humidity rises. If you’re the type of person who seems to always attract mosquitoes, avoid going out during those hours. Some of the mosquitoes common in the Southeast also prefer to come out at night, when they don’t run the risk of dehydration from the hot sun. They are most active earlier in the evening, but can continue to feed throughout the night.
Keep Mosquitoes Away from Your Home
One of the best ways to avoid mosquito bites around your home is to prevent mosquitoes from living in your backyard and around your house. A good mosquito control system can do just that. Mr. Mister has two great options for that: The ClearZone Misting System and Automated Misting Systems.
With the ClearZone Misting System, a Mr. Mister team member will visit your home every three weeks to spray a 100% biodegradable mosquito repellent around your property. The repellent sticks to the underside of foliage, continuing to work for 21 days, killing adult mosquitoes and larvae as well as inhibiting mosquito reproduction.
An automated misting system is a permanent installation similar to a sprinkler system. The automated system will release a fine spray of mosquito repellent when mosquitoes are most active, requiring minimal input form the homeowner.
You can learn more about your mosquito control option and get a free quote by contacting Mr. Mister today. Don’t wait until you’re bait. Contact us today!