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Are you a mosquito magnet? Some people really are irresistible to mosquitoes, and there is science to back it up. Studies suggest several factors that make some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Among them are carbon dioxide, body odor and alcohol consumption.
- Carbon dioxide — The gas we exhale is very inviting to mosquitoes based on the scent and the amount we breathe out. When we exhale, chemicals like lactic acid, uric acid and fatty acids join in an invisible carbon dioxide mixture that is unique to our genetics. Larger people exhale more CO2 and are more like to get bitten by mosquitoes, and pregnant women also exhale more and draw mosquitoes.
- Body odor — Human sweat when combined with bacterial colonies creates a sweet scent to mosquitoes. We call that scent body odor, and it doesn’t smell sweet to us. Sweat is odorless without the bacteria, so fresh sweat doesn’t have the same appeal to the bugs.
- Alcohol — A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that drinking alcohol — beer in particular — could make you more appealing to mosquitoes: “Our study demonstrated that percent mosquito landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction.”
Mosquito bites are more than an uncomfortable nuisance. Mosquitoes carry many infectious diseases — including malaria, the West Nile virus and Zika — and a bite is all it takes.
The real bloodsuckers are female mosquitoes. They use the protein and iron from human blood to make their eggs, and they are attracted to human skin odor even in the absence of carbon dioxide. Male mosquitoes do not bite and prefer flower nectar. So what steps can you take to minimize your chances of becoming a mosquito’s meal?
- Remove any standing water from your yard, drains, buckets, pool covers, flowerpots, pet water bowls, gutters or wherever water is stagnant outdoors. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.
- Use yellow lights or “bug lights” around your backyard or deck; they don't attract mosquitoes like incandescent white lights do.
- Use fans to keep a breeze blowing across the area where you plan to congregate outside. Mosquitoes are not strong fliers and won’t be able to tackle the fans’ airflow.
- Citronella candles offer a mild repellent, but tiki torches offer a bit more protection because they produce smoke — a good deterrent to winged bugs.
- Experts suggest using repellents with ingredients such as deet and picaridin, which can last four or more hours.
While it is not possible to protect yourself from ever being bitten by mosquitoes, you can reduce your chances. Being a mosquitoes magnet is the last thing you want.