Female mosquitoes bite us because they need the blood meal in order to lay their eggs. But why do they have a preference, or do they really have one? As we’ve talked about in previous blogs, mosquitoes find us based on several factors. Initially, they seek our CO2 plumes through their olfactory receptors. As they get closer to us, they rely on scent and vision and seek out colors and odors. When they are really close, they use body heat to find the right spot to bite.
One of the drivers to getting bitten more is being easier to find and that has a lot to do with your CO2 output. The higher your metabolic rate, the higher your CO2 output is. Pregnant women, folks who are fit or work out a lot, and conversely people who have been drinking alcohol or who are overweight and expending more energy to move, all breathe out more CO2 making them easier to find.
Mosquitoes have a specialized receptor that enables then to smell lactic acid. While some folks tend to have more lactic acid than others, the more you sweat the more lactic acid you release. Mosquitoes are also drawn to other scents and body odors that result from what you eat or what you have been doing. 99% of us start sweating the moment we step outside in Texas. The smell of sweat is attractive to a mosquito – so don’t forget the deodorant! Perfumes and colognes are also a draw, so if you plan on spending time outdoors the focus should be on minimizing odors. If you are super sweaty and you opt to add a hefty dose of perfume or cologne to cover it up, you have just created quite the olfactory soup for the mosquito. Stick with as little odor as possible.
Some research though not definitive yet has shown that dark colors are more of a draw for a mosquito. Remember, mosquitoes don’t see well so for them contrast is important. If you wear a black shirt and sit on a white bench you have just made yourself really easy to find.
One thing we cannot control is our blood type, but it is worth mentioning although research has yet to determine why this is. Mosquitoes appear to be more attracted to O type blood than others. In fact, mosquitoes landed on type O people 83% of the time, compared with 46.5% of A-type (Journal of Medical Entomology) in one study. You may also find that a relative is more attractive to mosquitoes, and thus you are as well thanks to genetics. Skin bacteria and microbes are also thought to play a role, which may also fall into the category of genetics. The “busier” your skin is the more attractive.
There is a lot we don’t know yet about what mosquitoes perceive as attractive, or what scents help them find us. You can help yourself by wearing light clothing and minimizing odors when you are outside as well as choosing your tie of day wisely. Mosquitoes are sun phobic creatures, so avoiding dawn and dusk and heading outside when the sun is high may be ridiculous in Texas, but it will help you avoid those bites. Of course, you can also just call us, and then you can head out whenever you want.