The question: Do mosquitoes really prefer to bite some people over others? And why?
Answer: Several Healthy Living editors consider themselves mosquito delicacies. Could we all be right?
It is definitely true that some people are more attractive to the pesky insects than others, but the reason why remains a bit of a mystery. There are a number of myths out there, including the assertion that mosquitoes prefer blondes. In reality, mosquito preference doesn’t seem to have anything to do with hair color, blood sugar levels, floral perfumes or many of the other factors we’ve heard rumors about.
First of all, sometimes it’s not you — it’s them. “Different species have different cues for being attracted,” Janet McAllister, an entomologist in the Division of Vector-Born Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Huffington Post.
While scientists don’t know exactly what attracts female mosquitoes to some and not others — it’s worth noting that male mosquitoes don’t feed on human blood — there are some observed patterns. Here are a few signs you might be a prime target for the ‘skeets:
Bigger people produce more carbon dioxide and if there’s one thing that will lure a mosquito from a great distance, it’s a big cloud of CO2. This is why adults tend to get bitten more than children and why men are more likely to be a feeding site than their female companions.
You Just Exercised
Mosquitoes find lactic acid alluring and if you’ve just worked out, chances are you’ve got some building up in your muscles. What’s more, the exertion could cause heavier and quicker breathing, another way to build up some carbon dioxide around you.
You Have A Fast Metabolism
Mosquitoes enjoy a bit of cholesterol in their meals. People who metabolize cholesterol quickly — not those who have higher cholesterol blood levels — may attract mosquitoes because byproducts of that metabolization are present on the skin, reported WebMD.
You Smell — To Them
Acetone and estradiol released in your breath and many of the compounds and bacteria found on your skin contribute to your attractiveness. Scientists believe that some people may give off stronger scents than others, even though everyone produces these compounds. Reported NBC:
It could be that individuals who get less bites produce chemicals on their skin that make them more repellant and cover up smells that mosquitoes find attractive.
What we do know is that there isn’t much you can do about it — besides using an EPA-approved mosquito repellant and covering up.
“Ask Healthy Living” is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical advice.
A previous version of this article appeared in June 2013.