If you always had a strong suspicion that mosquitoes bite you more than they bite others, you now have confirmation: they probably do.
Mosquitoes are attracted to humans by their sense of smell and sight, according to Jeff Riffell, professor at the University of Washington Department of Biology.
Riffell recently sat down with New Day Northwest to talk about this issue. He explained that mosquitoes have brains and are making choices.
“They are making decisions on whom to bite, like where to go, all these different things,” said Riffell.
Riffell published his research on mosquitoes in the paper, “the olfactory gating of visual preferences to human skin and visible spectra in mosquitoes.” Mainly, Riffell and his team were interested in finding out how mosquitoes sense people, why they choose certain people, and how to stop them.
Stopping them was a big component of Riffell's research as that could lead to discoveries that can prevent mosquito-borne diseases that impact up to 1 billion people every year, such as Zika, West Nile virus, and malaria.
The summer and beginning of fall is optimal mosquito season, but you should also be aware of what times mosquitos are more active.
Unfortunately, our dinner times coincide with theirs; Riffell said the early evening is the worst time since both night and day mosquitos are out and about (yes, there are two types). So, if you are planning on having dinner outside, be careful.
So what are the factors that make some people more susceptible to being bitten by mosquitoes? According to Riffell and his team's findings, there are four:
- Your breath: it doesn’t mean you have bad breath. Humans naturally exhale CO2 and while we don’t notice it, mosquitos find it irresistible. It attracts them from 100 feet away
- Your sweat: what’s more irresistible than the water vapor from our sweat? This is a close-range cue
- Your skin temperature: they ultimately use it to decide where and when to bite.
- Color: mosquitos gravitate towards certain colors, one of them being a red-orange-like color, which is the color they see human skin as. They don’t see skin pigmentation, just the red-orange color they like so much.
All of these factors are interwoven with one another and mean certain people are more attractive than others.
So, mosquitoes constantly bite you, how can you prevent it from happening? By using some of the same methods we already have.
Riffell suggests using tools and repellents like DEET (which is a chemical compound found in common insect repellents like OFF! Or Ben’s). Eucalyptus cream or lemon oil can also help.
In addition, Riffell said removing water sources, such as water barrels, from your yard can help reduce the number of mosquitoes.