Why Mosquitos Like You


Some of you know that we've been recording our show for the past thirteen years in the mosquito haven that is Galveston, Texas. Oh, it's not that bad, Dave! Oh right, Mr. Connecticut. You've forgotten now that you've moved away. I can feed at least a dozen mosquitos just walking from my car to my lab. What you need, Dave, is a good decoy. A recent study confirms about twenty percent of us are high attractors for female mosquitos who find their prey through sight and smell.

They LOOK for people who are moving and wearing dark colors like black, navy, or red. They SMELL for higher carbon dioxide output. That varies with your metabolic rate so drinking alcohol, exercising or simply having a higher metabolism will make you a target. Being pregnant raises your metabolic rate. One study shows pregnant women exhale twenty one percent more CO-two than non-pregnant women.

Human skin also puts off odors that contain more than three hundred fifty compounds and we only know of a handful that attract mosquitos but not the others. For example, they like lactic acid, which is made when we exercise, acetone, which is released in our breath, and estradiol which is a breakdown product of estrogen. They may also like people with more steroids or cholesterol. Oh, and the size of the welt you get is not related to how much blood is taken. It's your body's immune reaction to the mosquito saliva.

That's right. So, Dave, even though I did get fewer bites when I moved to Connecticut, the welts were larger and took longer to clear. So, cover up, avoid dawn and dusk, wear light colors and when all else fails, stand next to someone mosquitos like more!

More Information

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Why some people are mosquito magnets
The two most important reasons a mosquito is attracted to you have to do with sight and smell, says Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida in Vero Beach. Lab studies suggest that 20 percent of people are high attractor types, he says...

Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?
Blood type, metabolism, exercise, shirt color and even drinking beer can make individuals especially delicious to mosquitoes...