They’re a constant presence during the rainy season and there’s a reason we not-so-fondly refer to them as the unofficial state bird. There are around 3500 different species of mosquitoes. Thankfully, we only have 80 or so of those species in Florida.
Most of us are stuck swatting at the biting insects and scratching our arms, legs, necks, etc. But a select few either deal with an abundance of attention, or appear to not be bothered at all by mosquitoes.
Yes, we’d all like to be in that latter group too. Let’s look at why mosquitoes are drawn to you – and how you can increase the odds of not getting bitten.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
The number one way female mosquitoes hunt for blood is by detecting and moving towards carbon dioxide. CO2, those infamous greenhouse gas emissions are very appealing to pregnant mosquitoes seeking out the proteins in your (or your pets’) blood.
Some are better at it than others, but scientists estimate mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from up to 165 feet away. Their antennae are tuned to connect with the gas, and the more they detect, the closer they know they are to the source. Now granted, we’re not the only thing that gives off CO2. So mosquitoes use other methods to separate us from our buildings and vehicles.
The most obvious technique is exactly what you might expect – they literally look for visual cues. Mosquitoes can spot a human at around 16 to 50 feet away. So they follow the elevated levels of carbon dioxide until they can see what it is.
People who breathe heavier – and thus expel more CO2 – are more attractive to mosquitoes, as are pregnant women. Researchers believe that the expectant mother attraction that the abdominal temperature of pregnant women is a degree or two warmer than normal. That may be why some overweight people are plagued more by mosquitoes, as well as those who ‘run hot.’
Another fun fact is that some mosquitoes are specifically drawn to your feet and ankles, including Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads Zika virus.
Just like last call at the bar, some studies have found that drinking alcohol makes you more attractive to the opposite, er, insect. Maybe it’s the sweet odor coming out of your pores that brings them in? Mosquitoes can sniff out ammonia, lactic acid, and other compounds in your sweat.
Plus, just sweating in general can attract them. That’s because of the microbiota – the bacteria that live on our skin. We all have slightly different combinations of bacteria on our skin – they’re often the culprit when you smell someone’s stale body odor – as they interact with sweat. For whatever reason – and scientists still don’t know which combinations – the microbiota on some people’s skin attract mosquitoes, while other combos repel or at least confuse them.
Your sweat also has a subtle odor that identifies your blood type – and mosquitoes are drawn to certain types over others. Not only is Group O blood type the universal donor, it’s also the preferred type, with 9 out of10 mosquitoes expressing a preference (maybe more!). Blood Group A is the least preferred.
A popular myth or old wives tale that’s been roundly disproven is that consuming garlic, onions, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, beans, or lentils doesn’t do anything to keep mosquitoes away. But since they are drawn to lactic acid, grabbing a banana after your workout will cut down on your cramps and help ward off mosquitoes.
Twice Shy: Bypassing the Bite
Because mosquitoes work off visual cues, wearing light colored clothing will help you ‘blend in’ in the mosquitos’-eye view. Lighter colors also likely keep you cooler, adding to the benefit. Light greens and blues apparently are good, while some older studies suggested that orange and yellow may actually repel mosquitoes.
Of course, the best defense is a good offense. The more you can prevent standing water from lingering nearby, the less chance mosquitoes have to lay eggs and hatch (as they need the wet-dry-wet cycle). We know…it’s Florida. It rains every day – never mind the hurricanes – but the less standing water you have the fewer mosquito bites you’re likely to suffer.
We also recommend our exclusive No Bite Zones Mosquito Protection Program. It transforms those biting momma mosquitoes and their babies into vegans! They stick to the nectar of the plants, leaving you and your household unbitten. It’s affordable and easy to set up, we can even bring it by your home during our regular visits. For more details or to order this solution, just give us a call!
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