"Why me?" is a common gripe heard throughout the summer when legions of mosquitoes attack one person, while leaving others unscathed. What is it about these ill-fated, chosen few, that make them mosquito magnets?
Why Mosquitoes 'Swipe Right' on Your Aroma
Armed with a triple threat of sensors that rely on vision, smell, and thermal cues, mosquitoes can find their next meal with uncanny precision.
To start the hunt for blood to feed her young, the female mosquito flies at approximately 2.5 kilometres per hour, searching for carbon dioxide. Her nerve cells are armed with specialized receptors that can detect the carbon dioxide from our exhalations as far as 160 feet away!
Using the carbon dioxide plume to guide her toward the host, the mosquito's vision starts providing cues as she gets within 30 feet. Within eight inches of your body, she will sense your body's heat and moisture, along with other chemicals that include ammonia, butanol, and lactic acid. In fact, a mosquito can detect more than 100 individual human odours.
Bathing in your human perfume, the mosquito zeroes in on your body heat as it pinpoints her landing spot to start the feast.
How Delicious Are You?
*Research has shown that mosquitoes tend to be attracted to the following:
Higher body temperatures that are influenced by activity, age, gender, and even eating spicy food.
Activity levels during exercise, including yard work and gardening, because they produce more carbon dioxide, sweat containing lactic acid, and higher body temperatures.
People with greater concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin's surface.
People with higher levels of stress, as mosquitoes appear able to detect and are attracted to hormones released during spikes of cortisol.
People with an increase of a specific bacteria tend to have higher levels of bacteria near their ankles and feet, which may account for mosquitoes targeting those areas.
Pregnant women because they have slightly higher body temperatures and produce more CO2.
Dark clothing. Reds, blacks, and blues attract more mosquitoes than lighter colours, like whites and yellows.
Alcohol drinkers because alcohol makes your blood vessels dilate, which increases your skin temperature. Mosquitoes are also attracted to the ethanol content in sweat.
How to Avoid the Mosquito Buffet Line
Short of staying inside all summer, there are some practical tips you can implement to reduce your chances of being bitten:
Shower after exercise to reduce your sweat and thermal signatures.
Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Wear light-coloured clothing.
Use oscillating fans on decks and patios to increase air movement and decrease your CO2 signature.
Use a mosquito repellent with ingredients recognized and approved by The Pest Management Regulatory Agency
You can also reduce your chances of encountering mosquitoes by avoiding certain mosquito hots spots. Search your property for areas of standing water in pots, toys, ditches, or holes. A mosquito only needs a tablespoon of water to lay 50-200 eggs!