Similar to human beings, mosquitoes too have food choices! Others can walk through clouds of insects and not get a single bite. It’s not just your imagination, says entomologist Joseph M. Conlon, a technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association. “There is no question that some individuals are more attractive to mosquitoes due to chemicals they secrete from their skin and from their particular skin flora.”
Here are some factors that could play a role:
Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. Special nerve receptors help them detect the gas in the environment. A 2002 study published in The Lancet found that women in the later stages of pregnancy exhale about 21 percent non carbon dioxide than their non-pregnant peers.
The researchers speculated that this physiological difference could help explain why the pregnant women who participated in their experiments attracted twice as many mosquitoes. (Because itchy welts are just what you need in your third trimester.) But CO2 may not be the only reason you’re suddenly more appealing: It could also be that pregnant women emit volatile odors that draw the insects, says Laura Harrington, PhD, a professor in the department of entomology at Cornell University.
You’re dripping with sweat
Lactic acid, a byproduct of vigorous physical activity that’s excreted through sweat, is “indeed an attractant” for mosquitoes, according to Conlon. If you’re sweating profusely, your higher body temperature may play a role too. Warmth becomes more attractive as mosquitoes approach a potential host, says Conlon.
You have type O blood
A study in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that the bloodthirsty fiends are extra attracted to individuals with type O blood. “Type O individuals may share a propensity for exuding certain odors that mosquitoes find attractive,” suggests Conlon.
Who knew mosquitoes had taste for beer? A study done in West Africa by PLOS ONE on men who drank either beer or water revealed that “beer consumption consistently increased volunteers’ attractiveness to mosquitoes.”
Harrington pointed to another study—a small experiment done in Japan—that suggested mosquitoes are drawn to people who have ingested alcohol. “But how widespread that phenomenon is truly remains unclear,” she said.
Your genes make you more attractive
Research on identical and fraternal twins suggests that an underlying genetic factors may affect whether you get eaten alive in the deep woods, or escape relatively unscathed.
How to keep the buggers away
Nora Besansky, PhD, a professor in the department of biological sciences at Notre Dame: said “The simplest way, albeit uncomfortable in the heat, [to avoid bites] is to place a barrier between the skin and a day-biting mosquito—that is, long sleeves and long pants,” she explains.
“Even better protection is to apply an effective mosquito repellant to such clothing.” She recommends spraying yourself with a product that contains DEET. For help choosing the right spray for you, check out our list of the best mosquito repellents.
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