Mosquitoes are picky creatures — unsurprising if you’re the one always ducking for cover under a swarm of bloodsuckers while your friend remains unscathed. Good thing scientists are on the hunt to discover what makes certain people especially attractive to the tiny insects. Here are nine reasons they’ve come up with so far.
In many ways, no one is immune. The fact that humans breathe makes us all mosquito targets to varying degrees. More than 30 years ago, researchers discovered that carbon dioxide is one of the main reasons mosquitos seek us out. The insects will fly to higher concentrations of CO2 (i.e. – large groups of people at sporting events and backyard parties), then use other sights and smells to narrow down their target.
Because larger people produce more carbon dioxide and more body heat, they’re naturally more attractive to mosquitoes. This is why, when in groups, adults usually get bitten more than children, and men are targeted more often than women.
Along with swollen feet and morning sickness, pregnant women are also nearly twice as likely to get bitten than those who are not expecting, according to one international study. Two reasons: Pregnant women produce excess amounts of carbon dioxide and body heat.
You Exercise Regularly
During a workout, the body produces a chemical called lactic acid, which is released through sweat glands on the skin. And one German study confirmed that mosquitoes can detect and are attracted to lactic acid at close range.
Your Feet Stink
One study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that people with a higher abundance but lower diversity of bacteria on their feet are highly attractive to mosquitoes. The bacteria, which is pungent, is also found in Limburger cheese and is so effective at attracting mosquitoes, that scientists are using the cheese to trap and control the flies in Africa.
You’re Wearing Perfume
Mosquitoes suck the nectar of flowers for energy, so they’re attracted to floral scents. And certain floral odors are effective enough that researchers are figuring out how to use them to lure mosquitoes with their sweetness.
You’re Genetically Predisposed
Your genes are responsible for your body odor, so scientists are starting to test how genetic makeup could affect one’s susceptibility to mosquitoes. For example, one study published in the journal Infections, Genetics, and Evolution found that people with a particular HLA gene are more likely to be bitten.
You Drink Beer
Downing just one 12-ounce beer can increase the risk of being bitten, says the Journal of the American Mosquito Association, although it’s unclear why. Just make sure that backyard beer is worth it.
You Have O Blood Type
This one is debatable. Several studies, including the most recent published in the journal Experimental Parasitology, show that people with blood type O are more likely to get bitten. However Joseph M. Conlon, a technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association, has disputed some of the research, blaming “bad statistics.”
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