I recently went on a trip to the Dominican Republic. While there, I acquired more than 30 mosquito bites while my husband had a total of two. What makes it more unfair is that I constantly sprayed myself with mosquito repellent and my husband adamantly refused to use any. As it turns out, I am one of the 20% of people who are extremely attractive to mosquitoes. This means that we have slightly different physiological factors that cause us to have more mosquito bites than most people. Various factors determine your susceptibility to mosquito bites such as blood type, metabolism, exercise, alcohol consumption, clothing, and genetics.
Much like how humans have favorite foods, mosquitoes have favorite blood types. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, scientists found that mosquitoes prefer type O individuals over type A and B. In the study, type O individuals suffered from twice as many bites as those with type A, and type B fell in the middle. Furthermore, 85% of people secrete chemicals that advertise their blood type, and type O individuals are more likely to exude these chemicals. Mosquitoes sense blood type and use it to find their next meal.
Metabolism and exercise
Another aspect that can make you attract more mosquitoes is your metabolism. Metabolism allows us to break down the food we eat into usable energy, and it also creates carbon dioxide is a byproduct. This carbon dioxide is released whenever we exhale. Mosquitoes use an organ called the maxillary palp to sense the released carbon dioxide and locate their targets. They can detect carbon dioxide release from a maximum of 164 feet away. Therefore, people who release more carbon dioxide get bit more. This includes larger and obese people as well as pregnant women.
While mosquitoes primarily use carbon dioxide to find their next meal, they can also sense chemicals released in sweat such as lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia. Higher body temperatures also make you a bigger target for mosquitoes. Therefore, strenuous exercise increases the lactic acid and heat buildup in your body, which makes you more visible to insects.
Being pregnant also increases your chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes. In a study published in The Lancet, scientists found that pregnant women attract twice as many mosquitoes in comparison to non-pregnant women. They also found that pregnancy causes a woman to release 21% more carbon dioxide and it increases their body temperature by 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mosquitoes also rely on color and movement to find their prey. Since they generally fly closer to the ground to avoid the high winds, they can see you based on your silhouette. Darker clothes stand out more because they contrast against the horizon. Additionally, they can differentiate hosts from inanimate objects by looking for silhouettes that move.
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Resources: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-do-mosquitoes-bite-some-people-more-than-others-10255934/?page=8, http://time.com/3311624/why-mosquitoes-bite/, https://www.health.com/family/mosquitoes-bites
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