Anyone who has endured the agony and irritability of mosquito bites understands what vexing pests mosquitoes can be. But what is it about humans that attracts mosquitos in the first place? Why do some people appear to be almost completely immune to these little buggers? Why, in a crowd, do mosquitoes prefer one victim over another?
As it turns out, the explanation is both simple and complex, requiring a thorough understanding of mosquito behavior. When you understand why mosquitoes are drawn to you, you can better avoid their painful, itchy bites.
WHAT CAUSES MOSQUITOES TO BITE?
Male mosquitoes do not bite. They’ve developed a proboscis, a long, tubular mouth similar to that of butterflies, which can puncture the skin and sucking blood. They seek blood to obtain the nutrients needed to produce eggs. The primary function of a male mosquito is reproduction.
WHAT DRIVES MOSQUITOES CRAZY?
Mosquitoes are drawn to moist areas to breed and lay eggs. That’s why it’s critical to keep standing water out of your yard and other areas around your house.
WHAT DRIVES MOSQUITOES TO HUMAN BEINGS?
It’s your blood. Female mosquitoes, as previously stated, feed on blood to provide nutrients to their eggs.
Your inhalation. Female mosquitos have long antennae and olfactory (odor-sensing) organs called palps, in addition to a proboscis that can puncture human skin. These instruments are sensitive to the odor of carbon dioxide, or CO2, which we emit when we exhale.
High CO2 concentrations, which mosquitoes can detect from more than 150 feet away, provide an initial lure for hungry mosquitoes. However, CO2 isn’t the only factor that influences who gets bitten and how badly they get bitten.
Your odor. Certain odors released by perspiration are more likely to attract mosquitos, according to entomologists at the University of California, Riverside. Bacteria that live on human skin can also release substances like uric acid, lactic acid, and ammonia. Furthermore, the higher your body temperature, the more likely it is that you will sweat.
These facts help to explain why mosquito bites are frequently clustered around the feet, ankles, wrists, and hands, as all of these areas of the body are exposed to the elements, collect and retain moisture, and host larger bacterial colonies.
You have no control over the situation. There is no single factor that explains why mosquitoes bite who they bite. Researchers in Japan discovered that people with Type O blood are more likely to be bitten than people with Type A blood. Your metabolism, which has the ability to raise and lower your body temperature, is also a factor. Scientists have discovered that a person’s genetic make-up can account for up to 85 percent of the various factors that make them a “mosquito magnet.”
WHICH DAYS DO MOSQUITOES FEED?
Mosquitoes are most active at sunset and sunrise, but they can bite during the day as well.
DO MOSQUITOES BIT OTHER ANIMALS?
Humans aren’t the only ones who have to deal with mosquitoes. Certain mosquito species prey on birds, others on mammals, and some even prey on fish and reptiles. However, when a given species’ preferred food supply is depleted or threatened, the mosquito will be opportunistic and feed on whatever it can.
Whether or not mosquitoes have a taste for you, they are more than a nuisance. They pose a threat to public health wherever they thrive, and are responsible for the spread of deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and the West Nile virus, as well as the recently emerged Zika virus. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about medical symptoms associated with any of these conditions and suspect that they are the result of a mosquito bite.