Have you ever returned from the woods, covered in mosquito bites, while your friends are somehow untouched?
Or your significant other doesn’t seem to be bothered at all during that hot summer night while you lie awake from the buzzing while suppressing the urge to scratch your itchy welts.
You’re probably among the 20% of people who are naturally attractive to mosquitoes. According to other experts such as Jerry Butler, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida this number is a bit lower.
“One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes” .
It can be annoying to feel like ‘they’ always have to have you but it’s a fact, some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others. Certain individuals somehow seem to attract them more.
I am one of those people. Sadly the pesky bugs like me a lot. But how come? What is it that they like to bite me and not my girlfriend?
There are various reasons. In fact there’s a huge range of factors in play.
Scientists are researching which compounds and odors people exude that might attract mosquitoes. With 400 different compounds to examine, researchers are just scratching the surface of getting a clear view on what really makes mosquitos favor certain people.
Mosquitoes use scent, heat, carbon dioxide, moisture, and vision to locate hosts.
Read on to discover some of the factors which may be making you look like a delicious dinner to the little flying annoyances.
12 reasons why mosquitoes bite some people more than others
Unfortunately, your genetics play the biggest role in how likely you are to be bitten by a mosquito. Scientists estimate that up to 85% of the reason why you’re being bitten by mosquitoes is due to your genetic makeup.
So how attractive you are to mosquitoes is largely out of your control. Until we find ways to modify genetics, you’re stuck with the genes you’ve been given by your parents.
According to WebMD
genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.
Factors that determine if you are mosquito magnet are..
A study showed that mosquitos landed nearly twice as often on people with Type O blood as on those with Type A blood. Type B blood falls somewhere in between Type O and Type A.
Not only blood type plays a role in your attractiveness to mosquitoes.
Over 80% of people secrete a chemical signal that can be used to determine what type of blood that they have. Those who secrete the chemical signal are more likely to be bitten, no matter what type of blood they actually have.
Researchers have found that if you have high concentrations of cholesterol or steroids on your skin’s surface you are more attractive to mosquitos.
This has to do with your metabolism. Human skin is directly involved in cholesterol metabolism. In fact, our skin contains approximately 11% of all the cholesterol and steroid hormones are synthesized from cholesterol.
Mosquitoes are keen to detect the carbon dioxide that you exhale with every breath. They are so sensitive that they can detect someone breathing from over 150 feet away.
People who breathe more often are more likely to attract mosquitos. In general, the larger you are, the more carbon dioxide you exhale. That’s why children are less likely to be bitten than adults.
In addition to carbon dioxide we excrete a so called semiochemical called nonanal. This triggers their sense of smell and is how they find us.
Your skin releases volatiles which guide certain mosquito species to its host.
More specifically, a chemical present in your breath called acetone, etradiol which is a breakdown product of estrogen, and lactic acid which is part of your sweat all attract mosquitos. Some people excrete more of these substances than others.
Mosquitoes aren’t just sensitive to carbon dioxide; they can also smell uric acid, lactic acid and ammonia that are in your sweat. They are also able to detect people with a higher body temperature.
When you exercise, your body builds up excess lactic acid and increases your body temperature. These changes in your body are like ringing the dinner bell for mosquitoes. Genetics play a role in lactic acid production, so some people are more vulnerable than others.
Skin bacteria are also particularly appealing to mosquitoes. Research has shown that having increased levels of certain types of bacteria will lead to an increased susceptibility to mosquito bites.
Not every type of bacteria will lure in mosquitoes though. Large amounts of unattractive bacteria types have actually been shown to repel mosquitoes.
As it seems some mosquito types do have a taste for the bacteria present on sweaty feet. This also explains why your feet and ankles are so often targeted by the bugs.
So instead of tossing your smelly socks away from the bed you may want to drop them in the laundry basket before hitting the sack. Taking a quick foot bath may help too.
Drinking a single beer is likely to increase your chances of being bitten by pesky insects. Whether it’s the increase in body temperature, or the increase in ethanol found in your sweat, no one really knows.
Scientists have been unable to find a correlation between any one factor caused by drinking and an increase in mosquito bites. The only thing that’s certain is that if you drink, you’re going to be bit. Here’s a study that found that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction.
Pregnant women are almost twice as likely to be bitten by a mosquito. This is more than likely due to the fact that pregnant women exhale much more carbon dioxide.
Pregnant women also have higher body temperatures. An increase of just over a single degree in body temperature increases their likelihood of mosquito landings. Read more on PubMed.
Color of Your Clothes
This one is probably the hardest to believe, but James Day, from the University of Florida, claims that clothing color plays a role in how often people are bitten. He postulates that mosquitos use sight as well as smell to locate victims.
Colors that stand out, like black and red, may increase your chances of being bitten. Wearing greens and browns may help to camouflage you, protecting you from being seen by the winged assailants.
Movement & Excercise
Similarly, when you move, you are easier to spot. Mosquitoes will recognize you as a living being providing them with the desired blood. After all, they use sight as their first detection method.
Now you can try to lie still in bed but some people just move a lot. I can’t sit still and when in bed I tend to roll from side to side to my back until asleep.
It’s especially after exercising that you will become a mosquito magnet. Let’s say you have been running around the basketball court. Mosquitos have noticed you and lock on. Now you are panting from the physical strain. Carbon dioxide from your heavy breathing has them closing in. The lactic acid present in your sweat makes sure all the mosquitos on the block know where to find you.
Being less repellant
New research emphasizes another way of thinking. Jonathan Day, professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida says that according to the latest insights it’s not so much what makes you attract the bugs but what makes you repel them.
Some people are just more naturally repellant. They are theorized to produce more dermal chemicals that mask the cues mosquitos use to find us.
Some people seem to naturally avoid mosquitos with no effort at all on their part. Scientists have begun to study these people to determine why this is. They have discovered some people secrete natural repellents that the mosquitoes don’t seem to like.
These natural compounds are being researched in order to synthesize them for everyone’s benefit. The next generation of mosquito repellants may actually be born from genetics, rather than unnatural chemical compounds.
According to scientific research, human beings are differentially attractive to mosquitoes and other biting insects.
Laboratory studies and clinical trials have demonstrated that this can be attributed partly to the fact that some people’s bodies produce more natural repellent chemicals.
The so called ‘arm in cage experiment’ found that certain repellents naturally present in humans, so called human-derived repellents consist of aldehydes and ketones.
- The clinical trial conducted by James Logan and John Pickett (Vince, 2006) basically tested body odor. Two different test persons put one hand into each end of a cage and the researchers observed which hand the mosquitos preferred and which not. By examining the less desirable person further they were able to find naturally present body chemicals that may be of help in producing a natural insect repellent.
Who would have thought. Sipping beer in your short sleeved hawaii shirt on a hot evening will make you attractive to the ladies. The mosquito ladies that is.
If you’d like to avoid a rash of nasty mosquito bites, limit physical exertion, wear shades of green and don’t forget the bug spray. Other than that, there really isn’t much you can do to avoid the wrath of these tiny winged vermin. Once you’ve been bitten you may want to use one of the many mosquito bite remedies for relief.
Photo by Lolo from Tahiti.