Why Am I a Mosquito Magnet?
Are You A Mosquito Magnet?
Sometimes it seems that mosquitos are drawn to certain people over others. Is it because of their blood type? Or perhaps it’s because they’re so nice their blood literally smells sweet? Well, actually it’s neither of these and, in fact, there is not one particular attractant that makes a person more desirable to mosquitos than another. Instead, there are a whole host of different attractants that can make someone seem like the tastier treat to these nasty little bloodsuckers. Here are just a few reasons you may be a mosquito magnet:
It is scientifically proven that mosquitos are drawn to our breath. But it is not the stench of our last meal that is drawing them in, rather, they are attracted to our exhalation of carbon dioxide. This is such an important method for the mosquitos to identify their prey that they actually have three sensors for seeking sources of CO2. These sensors are cells called GR1, GR2, and GR3. In genetically modified mosquitos that were no longer able to use their GR3, there was a notable difference in their ability to detect targets, especially from a distance.
So, the heavier you breathe, or the more breath you exhale, the more of a target you may be. This means that pregnant women and people who are working out can be easily sought out by mosquitos.
Lactic acid is natural volatile compound that is produced in your body. When you exercise, your muscles release more of the acid and you may begin to sweat. This released sweat can carry the odor of the lactic acid along with other compounds such as sulfides or carboxylic acids. When tested in laboratory settings, mosquitos were far more interested in blood that had 3 to 5 times as much lactic acid in it as opposed to the other samples. So, the more you sweat… and the more you sweat from working out, the more attractive you will be to these biters.
This is one of the easiest attractants to change in order to help prevent mosquito bites. Studies conducted starting in the 1900’s have time and time again found that mosquitos prefer to land on dark colored surfaces. This was determined to be due to their apparent aversion to too much light. Lighter colors like white are very reflective, bouncing light, while darker colors like black absorbed the light. In fact, in laboratory tests, it was found that mosquitos preferred black, red and blue the most as opposed to tan, yellow, and white. Similarly, mosquitos notably avoid reflective surfaces like mirrors. So, if you wear lighter colors, or clothing with things like sequins, you are less likely to be a target.
In the early 2000’s tests were conducted that found mosquitos were more attracted to people who consume alcohol, especially beer. It is theorized that this is due to an increase in the release of specific chemicals on your breath or even in your sweat that is caused by the metabolization of alcohol in one’s body. This could, in turn, make someone smell more attractive to mosquitos.
Another theory is rooted in the fact that alcohol can release people’s inhibitions, making them far more uncoordinated and less aware of their surroundings. This would make the meal a safer gamble for the mosquito as you would be less likely to notice their presence and swat them… and even if you do notice, you may be too uncoordinated to land an effective blow on the little bloodsucker.
Yet another hypothesis considers the idea of the nutrition. Perhaps the presence of alcohol makes the blood somehow more beneficial to mosquitos due to its levels of minerals, etc. varying the nutritional value of the sanguine meal. This theory, however, has yet to be tested in any compacity, so it currently remains as nothing more than a fascinating conjecture.
Guesgen, M. (2019) 5 Things That Make You a Mosquito Magnet, YouTube. SciShow. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6MrN9o0BfA (Accessed: August 2020).