Mosquitoes are picky about their appetite

August 28, 2009 By Gail Appleson
mosquito
A female mosquito of the Culicidae family (Culiseta longiareolata). Image: Wikipedia

It's a late summer afternoon and you're out on the patio having a glass of wine with friends. As the sun begins to set, you start to think about what's for dinner.

Surprise! It's you.

That's right. You've suddenly become irresistible to a female mosquito who wants to join the party by sipping your blood. Why are you -- rather than your pals -- so much more pleasing to her palate?

"There's no definitive answer. We really don't know," said Joe Conlon, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association. "There's a tremendous amount of research going on as to why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. But we've only begun to scratch the surface."

While researchers can't pinpoint why mosquitoes choose one human entree over another, they do know these sucking insects are influenced by what they see and smell.

Unfortunately, mosquitoes can target you from more than 100 feet away. And if they find you yummy, your kids will probably be tasty treats as well.

"A lot of it is heredity," said Dr. Ken Haller, associate professor of pediatrics at St. Louis University. "When parents bring their kids in, I ask the parents if they get bitten by mosquitoes."

He said research shows that genetics account for 85 percent of a person's susceptibility to being bitten.

Among other things researchers know is that mosquitoes are attracted to the that humans exhale. The more carbon dioxide you put out, the more they like you. That might explain part of the reason why adults tend to get bitten more often than children, Colon said.

They've also found that mosquitoes enjoy lactic acid and cholesterol on the skin.

"Mosquitoes are also attracted to disgusting smells," said Conlon. "They like Limburger cheese, dirty socks and smelly feet, but try telling a teenager that."

In addition to smell, movement is a mosquito magnet.

"Fidgety people get bitten more," Conlon said.

If all things are equal, the active person will probably get bitten first, agreed Haller. For example, if there are twins and one is playing volleyball and the other is resting in a hammock, the volleyball player will most likely be bitten.

So if you're doing anything athletic and breathing heavily, you're especially attractive to mosquitoes because of the amount of carbon dioxide and lactic acid you're emitting. also like the chemicals in perspiration and the increased humidity it creates around your body. And of course there's the movement.

If you do get stung, Haller said, he's found a unique treatment for those itchy swellings: antiperspirants, particularly roll-on and push-up gels rather than sticks. Plain deodorants won't work.

"The aluminum salts in the antiperspirant help the body to reabsorb the fluid in the bug bite," he said. "The swelling goes down and the itching goes away."
___

(c) 2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Visit the Post-Dispatch on the World Wide Web at www.stltoday.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Mosquitoes supply spider with blood

Related Stories

Mosquitoes supply spider with blood

October 11, 2005

Scientists in Sydney, Australia, say they've determined an East African species of jumping spider prefers to prey on blood-engorged female mosquitoes. And that, the Macquarie University researchers said, demonstrates a rare ...

New insecticide created for mosquitoes

July 18, 2007

French scientists have developed an effective insecticide-repellent compound that can be used against mosquitoes resistant to current chemicals.

Researchers put the bite on mosquitoes

January 16, 2008

Few things sting like a mosquito's bite--especially if that bite carries a disease such as malaria, yellow fever, Dengue fever or West Nile virus. But if researchers from The University of Arizona in Tucson have their way, ...

Recommended for you

How our cellular antennas are formed

January 17, 2019

Most of our cells contain an immobile primary cilium, an antenna used to transfer information from the surrounding environment. Some cells also have many mobile cilia that are used to generate movement. The 'skeleton' of ...

Individual lichens can have up to three fungi, study shows

January 17, 2019

Individual lichens may contain up to three different fungi, according to new research from an international team of researchers. This evidence provides new insight into another recent discovery that showed lichen are made ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.