Before we all start getting too blissful about the warmer weather rolling in, let’s have a quick review of who likes to party crash: mosquitoes. Their reputation precedes them to where the mere mention sends your thoughts to several horrible places: Zika, West Nile virus, itchy welts, and allergic reactions. If you’re a mosquito magnet this short video demonstrates several reasons why those bloodsuckers are always after you:
Depending on where you live, you may be more prone to seeing them on a regular basis. But what makes you a target is based more on science than myth. Out of the 3,000-plus types of mosquitoes, only 200 or so species like to bite people. And it’s only the females that bite.
They start showing up as the weather gets warmer and their eggs begin to hatch. You know they like water: ponds, lakes, puddles, or a little birdbath in your yard. They like humidity too, like the kind found in damp or swampy places. But do you know why mosquitoes love some people more than others?
What Makes You Attractive
Mosquitoes’ sense of smell can remind you of sharks, and their vision relies on color. With that in mind, here are a few things that make you an alluring snack: carbon dioxide, bacteria, clothes, body odor, and beer.
Larger folks expel a higher amount of carbon dioxide when exhaling, and mosquitoes can smell breath from over 50 yards away. Yikes! In some areas, pregnant women are preferred as they emit higher levels of CO₂ too.
It’s not hard for them to find a teeming stream of carbon dioxide when the right conditions are present. People who exercise, have just had a beer, or metabolize cholesterol quickly ooze CO₂. Alcohol or a jog ups your metabolism, which in turn boosts your carbon dioxide output, making you sweet meat to mosquitoes. In other instances, your pores help send all the right messages to them.
Your warm, odorous body will make you a mark— or not. Your natural body odor can attract or repel mosquitoes based on genes. Mosquitoes love bodies where certain scents are on the surface of skin— like an apple pie right out the oven. Lactic acid, uric acid, bacteria, and sweat are favorites, but your own chemistry plays a role too.
Walking around in a musty funk is like an open invitation. But scientists have found that some people have natural scents that drive mosquitoes away. It’s genetic. Your friend may be spared simply because she doesn’t smell good to mosquitoes.
Could it be the way you move or the clothes you wear? Clothing that blends in with light tends to keep them away, while dark colors like black and blue are mosquito charmers. Red attracts their attention as do moving targets.
What Can Repel Mosquitoes
There are a number of ways to keep the buggers at bay. Of course, get rid of stagnant water, but also keep your grass trimmed. Mosquitoes like to hang out on long blades of grass too, and can sneak up on your feet, ankles, and legs.
Bathe in water, not in sweat. Don’t go too long without a shower to clean off bacteria, sweat, and other odors skeeters find attractive.
Wear thick clothing to prevent piercing through thin fabrics like spandex, and keep colors on the light side. Use a bug repellant containing DEET (at least 24%) or picaridin, or a natural one that contains lemon, lemongrass, or eucalyptus oils. You can also make your own repellant! Lotions or mists applied to skin and clothing will provide protection.
Keep in mind that mosquitoes are more active during certain times of the day like dawn and sunset. Stay indoors with the A/C or fans running. When outdoors, use fans to throw off their flight paths because they can’t deal with breezes or winds. You can also try citronella products, peppermint, or for severe cases, traps.
How to Treat Mosquito Bites at Home
If you inevitably end up getting bitten, there are plenty of DIY remedies to help you cope with swelling and itching. We know sometimes it can keep you up at night.
Ice helps with swelling and may provide some relief with itchiness. Our go-to is tea tree oil or organic apple cider vinegar rubbed on immediately after the bite. Both help with redness, swelling, and itching. Essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint mixed with a carrier oil can get rid of itch in a flash too.
Since childhood, oatmeal baths have helped to neutralize itches from all sources. Another folk remedy is a tea bag compress to reduce large welts and irritation. Other treatments include aloe, honey, or baking soda paste.
Chances are you’ll have a few encounters with bloodsuckers during their peak season. Just don’t let them take the fun out of your cookouts or sunsets in the garden. Are you a mosquito magnet? What steps do you take to stave off bites and how do you treat them? Tell us in the comments!
- University of California – Riverside
- Chicago Tribune