When that time of year finally comes round and you feel the urge to bring out the BBQ and take your first sunny bike ride, we inevitably ask ourselves the same question: am I going to get bitten? Unless you're in the relatively small minority of lucky individuals that mosquitos naturally avoid (which is predicated to be around 15% of the population), you'll find yourself on the menu. So why do some people get bitten more than others? New research proves that a combination of natural odours, body temperature and chemicals produced by the skin are key factors in making you more or less desirable to mosquitos, midges and other biting insects, says Dr. Jonathan Day, who is a leading entomologist at the University of Florida.
1.Mosquitos Love A Sweat
Being mammals, we all sweat to reduce our core body temperature, and as a consequence we produce certain chemicals that emanate from our skin. A few of these chemicals, lactic acid being the main culprit, attract mosquitos.
First off, you can forget about completely ridding the surface of your skin of lactic acid, because we can only minimise it. Lactic acid can be classed as metabolic waste produced in the muscles and a by product of converting sugars into fuel, so it's an essential part of our biology that's here to stay.
The best thing we can do is simply sweat less by keeping our core body temperature at a reasonable level. Generally the normal human body temperature is around 36.5–37.5°c.
Exercise and a high level of activity also simultaneously raises your body temperature and dramatically increases the production of lactic acid, so there's another excuse to kick back and relax.
2.Mosquitos Sense Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Mosquitos, midges, and other biting insects use Carbon Dioxide (CO2) as their main means for locating prey – all living vertebrates convert oxygen to carbon dioxide, making it the most reliable way for mosquitoes to identify potential bite victims.
Apart from holding your breath, avoiding a high level of activity will reduce your levels of CO2.
Although we all produce CO2, some of us generate higher levels than others. An individuals rate of CO2 production is related to their metabolic rate (metabolic rate being the amount of energy used by the body per unit of time).
So considering the variety of our metabolisms, this is a key factor in explaining why biting insects prefer certain unlucky individuals to others.
Overweight people and pregnant women have higher metabolisms, which makes them great targets for biting mosquitoes. Also having alcohol in your blood or exercising increases your metabolism, making you more visible to biting insects. So going for a run before cracking open a beer and heading outside is really asking for trouble.
3.Insects Can Register Colours
As well as CO2 and Lactic Acid, mosquitos, midges and other biting insects have secondary techniques to differentiate people from other carbon dioxide producing objects, like decaying plant matter and cars. The good news is we can minimise some of the techniques.
For example: black and darker shades of clothing visibly standout more to mosquitoes than light coloured cloths.
The reason for this is that mosquitoes find it hard to fly in the slightest of wind, so they hunt near to the floor spotting prey by comparing silhouettes against the horizon. Darker colours can be visibly detected against the light colour of the horizon, while lighter colours simply blend in, rendering you invisible. Also lots of motion distinguishes prey from there static surroundings, so by moving around you become a more obvious target for biting hungry mosquitos.
We don't expect you to spend your summer holiday imitating a human statue in a white suit. So here are some ways to use the mosquitos hunting techniques to your advantage. Protective clothing like lightweight bright coloured fabrics made for exercise have tightly woven fabrics, which let you blend into the background and protect your skin from mosquitos being able to land.
4.Mosquitos Prefer Blood Type O
Mosquitos are after your blood. More specifically, female mosquitos are after your blood. Males actually feed on nectar from flowers and plants to survive. But the females are looking for the protein in blood for the production of their eggs. New research has uncovered that some blood types are more attractive to these types of biting insects. We can see that people with the blood type O are twice as desirable to mosquitoes than those with type A blood, and type B blood comes second somewhere in between. 85% of the population have secret signals that differentiate what blood type they have. The lucky 15% of people that don't broadcast what blood type they are to the insect world are demonically less likely to be bitten.
Unless you have a blood transfusion before you go on holiday, we're afraid you're stuck with what you've got!
5.Mosquitos Love A Drink Too!
We have some bad news: having a few alcoholic drinks on holiday will make you more attractive to mosquitos. New research has shown that three bottles of beer could result in 30% more insect bites.
It's still not clear why mosquitos are attracted to high levels of alcohol in your blood, but it's speculated that the rise in body temperature is to blame. Mosquitos and other insects are also known to eat fermented fruit which might tell us something about their relationship with alcohol. We know mosquitos have an enzyme that breaks down the alcohol before it reaches there nervous system giving them a very high tolerance level – they're no lightweights!
When on holiday or just in the garden enjoying a summer BBQ, the most natural thing to do is to crack open a few beers or enjoy a nice cold glass of rosé. Although we don't recommend you let those nasty biters ruin a good time, it's not a bad idea to arm yourself with a variety of insect repellents to compensate. Here are some of our favourites.
6.Do Mosquitos Prefer Men or Women?
So we've concluded that mosquitoes prefer the taste of some people over others, but do they have a preference when it comes to gender?
There is a general notion that women are more desirable in the eyes of biting insects, because oestrogen is an attractant. But there is no conclusive evidence to show this is true.
From what we know, gender is definitely an important factor but not in the way people generally think. Men attract more attention from mosquitos simply because of their greater size: more CO2, lactic acid, body temperature ect.
7.Skin Bacteria and Mosquito Preference
Researchers have uncovered that certain species and the levels of bacteria that we naturally have living on our skin, can increase attractiveness in the eyes of mosquitos and other biting insects.
Researchers discovered high levels of only a few species of bacterium on your skin make you more attractive to mosquitos. As appose to having a high levels and a strong diversity of bacterium, which make you less appealing. This is why insects go for the ankles and tops of feet, as they have strong colonies of a certain type.
8.Are Mosquitos More Attracted To Pregnant Women?
Pregnancy is known to dramatically increase attractiveness to mosquitos.
Here are two different studies, that conclude pregnant women are prone to being twice as appealing – tis is likely a result of an increase of 21% more CO2 and a 1.26 degrees fFahrenheit temperature increase.
9.Insects & Genetics
Your DNA plays a large role in your relationship with mosquitos. Genetics account for 85% of the variability among individuals in relation to their attractiveness to mosquitos.These genes effect metabolic rate, blood type and many other factors.
At this moment we have no way of modifying these genes.
Scientific researchers have been homing in on why 15% of the population are rarely targeted by mosquitos, in the hopes of developing a more advanced generation of repellents. By using chromatography to identify chemicals people produce, researchers at the UK’s Rothamsted Research lab have found that these natural repellers tend to excrete a handful of substances that mosquitos don't find attractive.
Check out some of our favourite smart natural repellents here.