Who Even Likes Mosquitoes?

Seriously, though. Who does? Do you like them? If you do, I would love to hear the reasoning behind that formed opinion. Maybe you can sway me on my divine dislike for the little buggers. Unlikely though.

No one enjoys having big itchy bumps all over their body. Very un-fun. Not only that but on a more serious level, some mosquito’s carry dangerous viruses. All in all they’re not exactly your idea of a welcome bonfire guest. Although Summer is nearing its end (a tear just fell down my cheek) and mosquito season is following suit, it’s still good to know what exactly causes mosquito’s to be overly attracted to you and how you can prevent their unwanted attention.

Their Plan of Attack

Mosquitos are attracted to a number of chemical compounds that they can detect from an impressive 50 yards away. The males aren’t even interested in your blood, but the females are a different story, thirsting after the protein and iron in your blood to produce their eggs.

At this point in time, there are a few things that we know mosquitos are indeed attracted to:

  • Bacteria: One trillion microbes live on your skin and create your body odor. Humans have only about 10 percent of these microbes in common—the rest vary between individuals. Some of us have a collection of microbes that are particularly irresistible to mosquitoes. Lucky!

  • Chemical Compounds: When they are sniffing us out, mosquitoes home in on a wide variety of chemicals—277 were isolated as potential mosquito attractants from human hand odors in one 2000 study at the University of Florida. Some of their favorites are lactic acid, ammonia, carboxylic acid, and octenol (present in human breath and sweat). Mosquitoes are especially drawn to carbon dioxide.

  • Movement & Heat: Mosquitoes are drawn to both movement and heat. So if you’re exercising outside on a warm summer evening, you’re the prime target—especially if you’re short of breath!

In with the Old

It was once believed that mosquitoes were attracted to human sweat, but science has disproven that the sweat itself attracts them. Instead, they are drawn by the chemical changes produced by bacteria in your sweat. Sweat itself is odorless until bacteria act upon it. Although mosquitoes are not attracted to fresh sweat, if you offer them up some “fermented sweat,” they’ll be all over you.

A 1999 study by the Journal of Chemical Ecology found that human sweat was attractive to malarial mosquitoes after one to two days of incubation. During this time, bacteria in the sweat multiplied, which changed its pH from acidic to alkaline as sweat components decomposed into ammonia.They also found that malarial mosquitoes flock to foot odor—they will even bite a pair of smelly socks if you hang them up after wearing them for a few days.

Not only do mosquitoes find some odors irresistible, but others have been found to impair their ability to find their hosts—and some of these compounds are secreted by your body. One of these compounds is 1-methylpiperzine, which blocks mosquitoes’ sense of smell so effectively that they are rendered oblivious to the presence of a juicy human hand nearby.

Insect sprays containing 1-methylpiperzine are in the works, but thus far scientists have not been able to determine how to keep the substance from evaporating off of your skin, as naturally occurs over time. Certain people seem to secrete more of these natural substances than others, making them essentially invisible to mosquitos, which may help explain why some folks seem to be bitten more than others.

Safely Repel

The best way to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos is to obviously avoid THEM. They’re out and about more so during the hours of dusk and dawn. They are also thicker around shrubby areas and standing water. We can’t necessarily plan our days around avoiding mosquitos though, so here are some all natural ways you can repel the bloodsuckers:

  • Cinnamon leaf oil

  • Clear liquid vanilla extract mixed with olive oil

  • Wash with citronella soap and oil

  • Catnip oil

Each of these is every bit as effective as DEET, and without any of the harsh chemicals.

Effectively Treat

Sometimes we just can’t avoid the perilous bites. So when you do get bitten, here are some natural treatments to sooth the itch and the burn:

  • Aloe Vera

  • Chamomile

  • Lavender Essential Oil

  • Tee Tree Oil

  • A cooled tea bag

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Applying an ice pack or a heated spoon (warmed under hot tap water, but make sure not to get it too hot) each of these can help to relieve itching

With some planning and preparation, you should be able to enjoy the outdoors without getting eaten alive. Although some methods of prevention and treatment may not work as well for you, it’s just about trial and error and find the perfect fits for you 🙂