by Ruth Griffiths
Sultry summer nights practically beg for informal outdoor gatherings. Friends and family relax around a fire pit and lounge in the cooling air as the setting sun paints the sky in spectacular reds and purples.
But just as you are getting some relief from the heat of the day, disaster strikes in the form of a squadron of hungry mosquitoes! And they are all coming for you!
It sounds like a nightmare or a Hitchcock movie but it’s a reality for Prairie people.
I wondered, “Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?”
There are a few factors that could contribute to why mosquitoes are more likely to bite some people:
- Type O blood — In a study reported by the Journal of Medical Entomology, the bugs landed on people with blood Type O nearly twice as frequently as those with Type A.
The researchers noted this has to do with secretions we produce, which tips mosquitoes off on a person’s blood type.
Mosquitoes pick up on some cues we give off that make the bugs more likely to land on certain people.
- Carbon dioxide – Jonathan F. Day, an entomology professor at the University of Florida, commented: “Perhaps CO2 (carbon dioxide) is the most important. The amount of CO2 you produce, like people with high metabolic rates — genetic, other factors — increases the amount of carbon dioxide you give off. The more you give off, the more attractive you are to these arthropods.”
Day says mosquitoes also look for lactic acid — the stuff that causes our muscles to cramp during exercise. Lactic acid is released through the skin, telling mosquitoes we are a target.
- Body heat — After it has landed on you, a mosquito also takes in “tactile cues” such as body heat. When mosquitoes land, they’re looking for a place where blood is close to the skin.
That means a person whose body temperature is a little higher is more likely to get the bite.
- Alcohol consumption — Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, says lifestyle choices are also a factor in how we attract mosquitoes.
“If body temperature is higher, you’re exercising and moving around a lot, or if you’re drinking alcohol, you are more attractive to mosquitoes,” Piliang said.
“Being pregnant or being overweight also increases metabolic rate.”
One study showed that people who consumed just one can of beer were more at risk of attracting mosquitoes than those who didn’t.
“If you’ve been moving around all day doing yard work and then you stop around dusk and drink a beer on your patio, you’re definitely at risk of bites,” Piliang said.