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5 human scents that attract mosquitoes and how to make yourself less attractive to bugs
Have you ever felt like every mosquito within ten square miles comes buzzing straight for you as soon as you step outside? We are often asked why mosquitoes prefer some humans over others. Well, it all comes down to how good you smell (or bad, depending on your perspective).
Mosquitoes have very acute receptors in their antennae and heads that can detect human scents up to 100 feet away. Scents are one of the primary indicators mosquitoes use to identify their prey. It’s actually only female mosquitoes bite. The females need the protein found in blood to produce their eggs.
Some species have a preference for human blood like the Anopheles gambiae, which can carry and spread Malaria. Other species prefer bird blood, but most of them will accept any blood they can find. And we humans are big, slow and smelly targets that are easy to find.
Here are the top 5 human scents that attract mosquitoes and tips for minimizing your scent to these blood-thirsty pests.
5 human scents that attract mosquitoes
• Carbon dioxide – mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, both the scent and the amount. There are many sources of CO2 in nature, so it isn’t just the carbon dioxide that attracts mosquitoes. Every time we exhale, we release chemicals like lactic acid, octenol, uric acid and fatty acids that combine with CO2 to form our own unique carbon dioxide cocktail. This combination of scents is what clues mosquitoes that there is a human target nearby. And some of these particular combinations are more attractive to mosquitoes. Additionally, the more CO2 we emit, the easier we are to recognize. The scent and amount of carbon dioxide you exhale is unique to you and your genetics, and unfortunately there isn’t much you can do to change your attractiveness other than mask your scent. Larger people exhale more CO2, which is why adults are more likely to be bitten than children. Pregnant women also exhale above average amounts and are therefore more attractive to mosquitoes.
• Body odor – Bacterial colonies combined with sweat generate that sweet (if you’re a mosquito) human scent we call body odor. Without the bacteria, our sweat would be odorless; with the bacteria, our sweat is one of the more attractive scents for mosquitoes, particularly the malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae, which prefers to bite humans. There are measures you can take like washing regularly to reduce body odor; however be careful of fragrant perfumes and scents that can also draw mosquitoes. Fresh sweat is not as attractive because it has not combined with bacteria.
• Secretions – About 80% of us are “secretors” or people who secrete compounds known as saccharides and antigens through their skin and indicate blood type. Mosquitoes are magnets for secretors. Once again, your classification as a secretor or non-secretor is determined by your biology and there isn’t anything you can do to put yourself in the non-secretor category.
• Blood type – Depending on the type of blood you have, you secrete different scents. Studies have shown that mosquitoes are most attracted to Type O blood and least attracted to Type A. No changing your blood type either.
• Lactic acid – Lactic acid is emitted through your skin when you are active or eating certain foods. Mosquitoes are more attracted to people with a greater build-up of lactic acid on their skin. You can reduce lactic acid by washing with soap after exercising and thoroughly drying.
Scent is the primary indicator for mosquitoes that a human target is within striking distance. There are also other indicators like body heat, moisture, movement and color that attract mosquitoes’ highly attuned receptors.
How to minimize your mosquito-attracting scents and repel mosquitoes
Aside from washing regularly to reduce bacteria and lactic acid build-up from your skin, most of the human scents that attract mosquitoes are unique to us and unalterable. Now for the good news: You can mask your human scent and with insect repellents like Mosquitno. Mosquitno wristbands and Spotz stickers are infused with citronella oil, which works by effectively masking human scents and making you appear no more useful than a bloodless plant. Best of all, Mosquitno is all-natural and is as easy as slipping on a bracelet or a sticker. There are no sticky, toxic bug sprays to add to your bug worries. We want you to enjoy the outdoors naturally bug-free.
Look for our next post on how citronella works to repel mosquitoes.