Have you ever been outside with a friend or group of people and feel like you’re the only one getting swarmed by mosquitoes while others seem to get ignored? If you seem to be the victim of dozens of mosquito bites every time you step outside, you may wonder why it is that you’re the one who’s always targeted. Ultimately, it all comes down to how you smell, as there are certain specific sources of scents that come from the human body that are attractive to mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes have acute receptors in their heads and antennae that can detect scents emitted from humans up to 100 feet away. Female mosquitos need the protein found in human blood in order to produce their eggs, and scents are one of the primary indicators used by them to identify their target. While some species prefer certain types of animal blood over human blood, humans provide a relatively slow and large target that mosquitos can easily find and latch onto. Here are some of the primary human scents that attract mosquitoes:
We all exhale carbon dioxide, and mosquitoes are attracted to both the scent and the amount. While there are many carbon dioxide sources in nature, it is our specific combination of carbon dioxide and various chemicals such as lactic acid, octenal, and uric acid that alerts mosquitoes of a human target. The scent and amount of carbon dioxide that you inhale is unique to your genetics, so this factor can’t really be changed to alter how attractive you are to mosquitoes.
Lactic acid is emitted from your skin during physical activity or when eating certain foods. Mosquitoes are attracted to those with a greater accumulation of lactic acid on the skin. Lactic acid build-up can be reduced by washing with soap after exercising.
Sweat provides a receptacle for colonies of bacteria to accumulate, causing the odor that our bodies produce. This scent is one of the most attractive scents for mosquitos. While body odor is a result of sweating, fresh sweat is not as attractive to mosquitoes because it has not yet been combined with bacteria. Regular washing of your body can reduce body odor.
Most people secrete compounds known as saccharides and antigens through their skin. These compounds indicate blood type, which influences the scent that your body secretes. Mosquitoes are attracted by different degrees of the scent caused by different blood types; for example, studies have shown that Type O blood is the most appealing to mosquitoes, while Type A is the least attractive. Similarly, to the exhalation of carbon dioxide, secretions from our skin are genetically determined factors and can’t be altered.
While scent is the primary indicator for the attraction by mosquitoes, there are also several other factors, including moisture, movement, and body heat. Aside from washing regularly, the best preventative measure to mask the smells that you can’t alter is to use a bug spray or similar scent-masking device that masks the smell indicating to mosquitos that you are human.
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