Ever wonder why some people get bit more by mosquitos than others? Is it something they are doing differently than other people? Well, believe it or not, mosquitos have preferences just like we do. Once we learn what they like and dislike then we can figure out what to do to keep them away. So, after asking my friends who work in pest control here is what I have learned.
The first thing you need to know is that the female mosquito needs to feast off your blood to feed her eggs. She is attracted to humans by the carbon dioxide given off from our breath. Therefore, if you breathe more heavily through your mouth, she will notice you first. Mosquitos can detect strong concentrations of carbon dioxide within 170 feet away.
In the Journal of Medical Entomology, researchers reported that mosquitos also prefer type O blood over any other blood type. They also found that those with type A blood are the least likely to suffer compared to those with O, B, or AB blood types.
Another aroma the mosquito is attracted to is sweat. When we sweat, we release chemicals such as lactic acid onto our skin and into the air. Those who are more active may also produce more CO2 as well as lactic acid unwittingly attracting the mosquitos.
Sweat itself does not have an odor. It’s the bacteria that live on the epidermis and it reacts to our sweat that forms the chemicals that gives off an aroma. It’s the uric and lactic acids as well as the ammonia produced by the bacteria that gives off scents. Each individual person has a distinct mix of bacterial flora inhabiting the skin. Therefore, mosquitos may be attracted to one person over another, depending on the person’s skin flora.
I am sure you noticed at outdoor events where beer is served you find more mosquitos around. The reason is that alcohol raises your body temperature causing you to sweat more and the ethanol that is given off by your skin attracts the mosquito. It only takes one 12 oz. beer to attract the mosquito to you. There are also studies that show mosquitos carrying malaria or dengue fever prefer the scent of beer drinkers.
Mosquitos are able to see larger subjects easier and therefore bite pregnant women twice as many times as the general population. They can see dark or bright-colored clothing best. They may smell you from 170 feet away but they begin to see you within 15 to 50 feet away. To make it more difficult for them to see you wear white or light colors. The least attractive color to insects is khaki, beige, and olive. They also use their vision to sense body heat. They can sense the body heat from up to four feet away.
So now you know what mosquitos like and dislike but it isn’t enough to keep them away 100%. If you don’t mind chemical repellents, those containing DEET are the most effective. The EPA claims DEET is safe when used according to the directions.
For those who prefer a more natural repellent there are several options. Mosquitos do not like the scent of lavender. Plant some lavender or rub it on your skin. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) which comes from lemon eucalyptus trees is also effective.
TIP: Try one-part lemon eucalyptus oil to ten parts sunflower oil or witch hazel and mist over skin. Due to the oil of lemon eucalyptus do not use on children under three years old.
Greek catnip can repel mosquitos and Iowa State University found it to be 10 times more effective than DEET. Could this be another beautiful idea to add to your garden besides lavender?
Alderleaf Wilderness College reported that those eating diets rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables have fewer bites than those who eat more processed and sugary foods. While some people swear by eating garlic helps keep the mosquitos away, rubbing it on your skin is more effective. Colorado State University Extension reported that in an Indian field study, applying 1% garlic with beeswax kept mosquitos away up to 8 hours. A study from Taiwan advised that cinnamon oil can kill off mosquito eggs and repel against the adult mosquito including the Asian tiger mosquito.
TIP: Mix ¼ teaspoon or 24 drops of oil per 4 oz. water. Spray clothing, upholstery, plants, and home. Be careful if applying to skin, cinnamon oil can be an irritant, especially to sensitive skin.
Thyme oil is one of the best when repelling mosquitos carrying malaria. It provides up to 91% protection when using on 5% Thyme oil.
TIP: Mix 4 drops of Thyme oil per one teaspoon of base oil (jojoba, soybean, almond, coconut, etc.) and apply to the skin. To spray on, mix with 2 oz. water. During a campfire, throw thyme leaves in and enjoy up to 85% protection for up to 90 minutes.
If you do get bit you can treat these itchy, painful bites at home. You can apply calamine lotion. If you don’t have any calamine on hand, rub lavender oil, or apple cider vinegar at the site of the bite to reduce irritation. You can also put a slice of raw onion or freshly cut garlic on the bite to provide relief and prevent infection. One of my favorites is aloe vera. Just break a part of the plant and rub on the bite.
Do you have a preference for mosquito bite relief? Share it with us below.
Alderleaf Wilderness College; Plants That Repel Mosquitoes; Jason Knight
USDA Agricultural Research Service; How Attractive Are You? To Mosquitoes, That Is; Tara Weaver-Missick; March 2007
"Medical and Veterinary Entomology"; A Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Garlic as a Mosquito Repellant: A Preliminary Study; T.V. Rajan, et al.; March 2005
Empire State Lyme Disease Association: How to Prevent Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases