If you live in an area with lots of mosquitoes you may have come across that some people tend to attract more mosquitoes than other people. Scientists believe that one of ten people is going to be more attractive to mosquitoes and this may very well be truth, because mosquitoes can sense a human body with many different methods.
Mosquitoes may seem like a very primitive insects, but they actually use a combination of many complicated senses to detect humans and animals even from distance of 130 feet (40 meters).
A lot of research is being conducted to find exactly what attracts and what repels mosquitoes and we are still far from the complete answer to these questions as there are a lot of factors such as many odors that a human body produces that might be visible to a mosquito. To get an information about attractions of mosquitoes that have been proven by experiments, we have made this article, so you can perform at least some basic actions to protect yourself against those blood sucking insects.
Check our presentation with the summary of what attracts mosquitoes to humans.
Although, mosquitoes mostly use scent to locate their victims, vision is also used by some mosquito breeds to find humans. As weird as it may seem, darker clothes will attract more mosquitoes than lighter clothes. Wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans will make you a lot more desirable for mosquito females than if you wear a white colored clothes. Generally, you should avoid clothes in black, dark blue, dark green and red colors.
However, color of clothes is not the most common way mosquitoes find their victims, and carbon dioxide as well as heat and moisture from a human skin is a lot stronger attractions for mosquitoes.
The most common way how mosquitoes find humans and animals is by sensing carbon dioxide from our breath. Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from a pretty far distance up to approx 150 feet (45 meters), so carbon dioxide is considered to be more a mid to long range sensing method for mosquitoes. The approximate amount of carbon dioxide in one breath exhaled is 4%.
Mosquitoes have a specific organ that they use to detect CO2 called maxillary palp. CO2 from a human breath is carried by a wind, which also helps mosquitoes more further away to sense that there is a human in a close distance. Generally speaking, the more CO2 you exhale the more attractive you are going to be to mosquitoes. CO2 is not only exhaled by humans but also by other living beings such as animals, and as we know, mosquitoes not only need human blood, but will also pump blood form different animals, preferably those who do not have thick skin or fur.
Together with CO2 we also exhale different other chemicals and all of these chemicals together with CO2 makes an unique scent that is different for each person. This is why some people are more attractive for mosquitoes than others. When a mosquito senses a CO2 stream it flies in direction of the wind in a zigzag pattern until it reaches the source of the stream.
When exercising you give off a lot of carbon dioxide because of the heavy breathing. This is why you may notice a lot of mosquitoes while playing football, volleyball or other sport outdoors.
Another interesting thing is that larger people will attract more mosquitoes. This is because larger people tend to exhale more CO2, so mosquitoes are more attracted to them. This can also be attributable to pregnant woman, who also produce more CO2, so they can be spotted more easily by mosquitoes. In the same time children exhale less carbon dioxide as adults so compared to adults they attract less mosquitoes.
As mentioned above, besides humans, there are other sources of CO2 that can be found in nature such as animals. While there are things you can do to block scents from your body that mosquitoes detect, unfortunately there aren’t a lot to things you can do to block carbon dioxide you exhale.
Besides carbon dioxide, there is another substance released from our body that attracts mosquitoes – lactic acid. Lactic acid is released from our skin primely when we exercise and sweat. Besides lactic acid, mosquitoes also can be attracted by uric acid. The more you exercise the more lactic acid your skin will release. Again, the amount of lactic acid released can vary between different people, same as carbon dioxide, which makes some people more attractive to mosquitoes than others.
Lactic acid is also produced when we eat salty or high-potassium foods. To reduce the amount of lactic acid produced by our bodies, shower with soap after training and dry your skin before going outdoors. Also avoid easting salty foods like snacks and also foods that contain large amount of potassium near mosquito active area.
Fragrances and skin care products
Different type of fragrances tend to attract mosquitoes a lot, especially ones that contain aroma of flowers or fruits. Such products include perfumes, sunscreens, shampoos, fragrant lotions and other. Also washing powder and fabric softeners with fruit and flower fragrances can attract mosquitoes.
Besides fragrances that attract mosquitoes in these products, some skin care products contain previously mentioned lactic acids which is a large attractant for mosquitoes. These products must be avoided, if you do not want to fight off lots of mosquitoes when going outdoors.
In summary, avoid putting any products that contain flower or fruit fragrances on your skin, hair or clothes and don’t use skin care creams with lactic acid in mosquito active season.
Skin Temperature (heat)
The blood circulating trough our blood vessels radiates heat, which can be detected by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are not able to detect heat from as far distance as they can detect carbon dioxide, however, when they are close to the victim, mosquitoes can sense heat emitted by a body of a living being with their heat sensing organs.
Different mosquito breeds can detect different body temperatures, some might sense cooler body temperatures, while others more warm temperatures.
Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide to detect their victim from a distance and than use their heat sensing to find a proper surface on your body to place in their trunk and suck your blood. This is why mosquitoes usually are attracted to those areas on your body that are not protected with a fabric. Also mosquitoes can detect areas of your body where blood is closest to the skin, so sometimes mosquitoes can detect that you are wearing clothing from a thin and light fabric and can bite trough your t-shirt or socks.
Moisture and sweat
The best way to attract mosquitoes are with water, and a human body that produces moisture will attract more mosquitoes than everything else. Mosquitoes are attracted to perspiration and moisture in general, even in a very small amounts. This is because mosquitoes use water to reproduce, female mothers lay eggs into a water, so it is natural that any type of water will attract mosquitoes.
People who sweat will be more attractive to mosquitoes. These are mostly people that are sporting, as their bodies produce high amount of moisture in form of sweat, and also people exhale water particles when they breathe that also can attract mosquitoes. So avoid exercising or performing tasks that make you sweat in mosquito active areas, especially in the evenings when mosquitoes are more active.
Movement of a human body can also be detected by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can detect their victims with multiple senses and seeing movement is one of these senses. Mosquitoes can detect changes in light waves of objects closer to them, so movement of humans and animals will attract them. Sensing of movement is not the primary detection method that mosquitoes use, and sensing carbon dioxide from our breath, body odors, skin temperature and moisture have larger impacts on ways how mosquitoes can find us.
Other odors from human body
Human body produces hundreds of different odors trough our skin and there is still not a clear answer to the question, which of these odors mosquitoes can sense to find us. Scientists have gathered information that our body produces over 350 different odors, and each human body produces different amount of these odors, so it is going to take a long time and many experiments to find all exact odors that attract mosquitoes and even longer time to produce an insect repellent that will make us 100% safe from mosquito bites.
There are lots of ways mosquitoes can find and track us from various distances. From a longer range mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide we exhale when breathing. From shorter distances mosquitoes can sense various odors and substances from our skin such as lactic acid, perspiration and lots of other different odors. Also mosquitoes are good on sensing heat from our skin that is produced by blood running trough our blood vessels. Besides natural odors from our bodies, mosquitoes are attracted by fragrances of different perfumes, lotions and creams we use on our body as well as flower and fruit fragrances from washing powders and fabric softeners. As if it were not enough, mosquitoes can detect movement of our bodies and can be attracted more to humans wearing darker clothing than those wearing light clothes.
As we can see, mosquitoes aren’t actually so simple and primitive insects as we might think when it comes to finding humans to suck blood from them, and it takes a lot of work to become less attractive to mosquitoes. While we can protect our bodies from mosquito bites by wearing lighter and thicker clothing, showering more often to oppress body odor, avoid wearing perfume or using skin creams with flower and fruit fragrances or with lactic acid and also avoid eating salty and high-potassium foods, these are just minor steps that are going to make us a bit less attractive to mosquitoes, but will not help a lot in areas with a high mosquito activity, especially in late afternoons when mosquitoes are the most active and will look for any blood filled body to eat from.
Our bodies are most exposed to mosquitoes when we are sporting outdoors, because our bodies produce extensive amount of heat and moisture in form of a sweat, as well as more lactic acid, which all will attract mosquitoes, and also when sporting we breath heavier and exhale more carbon dioxide, which will attract mosquitoes even from further distances.
How to protect yourself against mosquito bites
One thing we can do is to use an insect repellent. There are many insect repellents using different mosquito repelling substances such as DEET, pyridine, citronella oil and others. Each of these repellents have different work times and amount of success for repelling mosquitoes, but in general they will keep most of mosquitoes away from an half an hour to couple of hours on average. However, mosquito repellents are not going to be very useful when you are performing outdoor activities and sweating or staying outdoors in rain, because moisture tend to neutralize active ingredients used in mosquito repellents, which will soon make you visible to mosquitoes.
Another disadvantage of mosquito repellents is that they tend to work for very short amount of time and in short distances. For example, if you use an inset repellent on your skin or clothes, mosquitoes are probably going to avoid you, but will be attracted by a person standing next to you. To overcome this problem, you can use a mosquito fogger. There are different types of mosquito foggers from ULV to Thermal foggers, but for outdoor usage, thermal foggers tend to be the most effective. Foggers spray out an insecticide in form of a dense fog, that when comes in contact with a mosquito kills it mostly by affecting its nervous system. Mosquito foggers need to be used directly on areas where mosquitoes like to reside most, such as shrubbery, tree tops, long grass, areas with standing water such as barrels, rain gutters, tree holes, ponds, puddles and many other places. After a fogging session mosquito problem is going to be resolved for at least a few hours. For long term mosquito control fogging must be repeated several times a week.
And for those who are usually more attractive to mosquitoes than other people, think that your body odor is just more attractive and that opposite sex will appreciate odor form your body same as it is liked by female mosquitoes.