Do you feel like your body is like a mosquito candy? Do your arms get nibbled up and down, while your partner’s stay untouched? Is this just your imagination…or is there actually some science behind why some of us seem especially tasty to those annoying little skeeters? 

It turns out that there really are some people who get way more munched on than others!

What attracts mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes love people. Actually, they really love warm-blooded animals. That is specifically because the targeting sensors in their brains use carbon dioxide to help them locate their next meal! Every time we exhale, our breath is basically a little matador waving a red cape at a bull, 'Hey, come and get me!' But it is not just the carbon dioxide that attracts mosquitos. Some people just taste extra yummy to these little bloodsuckers.

Believe it or not, it is mostly based on genetics. In fact, 20% of us have to deal with more bites than anyone else.

Why do mosquitoes bite me?

Your blood type attracts mosquitoes…

People with type O blood are almost twice as likely to attract mosquito bites than type A’ers. How does a mosquito know what type you are? (It is not like they have earned a medical degree!) Interestingly, 85% of people have chemical signals released through their skin that reveals blood type, so mosquitoes can tell when their favourite flavor (so to speak) is nearby.

Carbon dioxide attracts mosquitoes…

You may have heard that a dog’s sense of smell is 40 times greater than a person’s—but that is small potatoes compared to the power of a mosquito’s tiny sniffer! No, mosquitoes do not have noses, but thanks to their maxillary palps, a mosquito can smell the carbon dioxide in your breath from up to 164 feet away! That means people who have been performing strenuous exercise outside are basically walking advertisements for an all-you-can-eat buffet to a mosquito. 

Alcohol attracts mosquitoes…

Scientists are not exactly sure why, but mosquitos appear to prefer beer-drinkers. At first, researchers thought this was because ethanol might make sweat sweeter to a mosquito or that ethanol raises the body’s temperature but neither of those have proven to be why. While the jury may be out on the reason behind the behaviour, it seems that beer is enough to attract more bites (maybe they just like the taste of hops!). 

Pregnancy attracts mosquitoes…

Sorry, mums. As if pregnancy did not already come with enough uncomfortable side effects, pregnancy seems to make you more attractive to mosquitoes. There are two big reasons why mosquitos like to nibble on mamas-to-be… First, pregnant women exhale up to 21% more carbon dioxide. Plus, being pregnant raises body temperature by an average of .8 degrees Celsius…in other words, a mosquito sees you as a warm, tasty treat! 

Dark colours attract mosquitoes…

Apparently, mosquitoes’ itty-bitty bug eyes can recognise certain colours, which helps them spot humans. Dark colours, like black, blues, and even deep reds, make you stand out. This is especially true at dawn and dusk when mosquito’s vision is at its sharpest, so consider throwing on a light-coloured t-shirt when you are outside early in the morning or late at night!  

Final thoughts on what attracts mosquitoes:

Even if mosquitoes seem to find your skin irresistible, there are a few ways to keep those itchy buggers at bay for your family. Avoid peak mosquito hours, dress your brood in light-coloured clothes, apply some bug repellant (with 15% DEET) to your clothing (your socks, shorts, cap, neck of shirt, etc.) Keep a fan on to disperse your CO2. And, put a little netting on your baby’s cot and pram. It is the safest way to protect vulnerable babies from mosquito bites—and the concerning diseases they carry. 

If you can take as many of these steps as possible, there is a good chance that mosquitoes will take the hint and…buzz off!

View more posts tagged parents, health & safety