We've heard it time and time again; there's something about you, in particular, that mosquitoes just love. Is it your charming personality? No, probably not. Your exquisite taste in music and film? We think not. Is it something about your aura? Well, sort of.
It all boils down to one simple fact; You stink. Good, bad... we don't know. But whatever the perspective, mosquitoes all have acute receptors that detect scents from up to 100 feet away. These are the primary indicators that female mosquitoes (the ones that do the biting) use to pick out their prey.
Having said that, all mosquito species are different; some species will bite anything warm-blooded, including birds, cows, dogs, cats or humans. On the other hand, other mosquito species prefer to dine exclusively on humans, such as the major Zika culprit Aedes aegypti, and the Anopheles gambiae, which has quite the penchant for feet and ankles over other exposed parts of the human body.
In general, there are a few different kinds of scents that mosquitoes are particularly attracted to. The more of these scents you consciously or unknowingly emit, the more likely you are to be a mosquito magnet.
Whenever you exhale, you're releasing a plume (a visual pattern of carbon dioxide) for potential mosquitoes to sniff out and follow. Mosquitoes use sensors around their mouths to detect carbon dioxide, and the plume you leave allows them to zone in on you.
The more carbon dioxide you emit, the easier you are for mosquitoes to identify. Larger people and pregnant women produce more C02 than others, so naturally are more at risk of bites than children. Equally, if you've just done some running and are a little short of breath, you might be surprised at all the mosquitoes trying to keep up with you.
Lactic acid is another big one. The human body produces lactic acid naturally as it converts carbohydrates into energy, which is then emitted through our skin when exercising. It's also found in certain foods like yoghurt, fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sourdough bread, and wine.
Some people have more build-up of lactic acid on their skin, so if you've been working out or have been munching on any of the above, it'd be wise to wash up before relaxing outside.
Yep, this is another one you haven't got much control over unfortunately. There are four main blood types, and they all give off different scents. Studies have found that mosquitoes are particularly keen on Type O blood, and not too fond with Type A. So to all you Type O's, make sure you lather up with repellent and wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing, unless you want to go speed dating with multiple mosquitoes. You're just their type!
A combination of sweat and bacteria creates a scent on our skin that mosquitoes simply adore, but your significant other probably doesn't. That's right, we're talking about B.O. Bacteria is what gives our sweat a scent; old sweat that's been building up on the skin has had time to mingle with all that bacteria, which is oh so attractive to skeeters.
If you know you're going to be outside, do yourself a favour and give your skin some attention (also known as a shower). Don't forget to scrub your feet, and avoid wearing stinky sneakers or day-old socks - they're full of all your old sweat.
Finally, something you can control! Fragrances, perfume and scented lotions are known to attract mosquitoes, particularly floral scents. When you're addressing that B.O. issue, be careful not to clean yourself with fragranced body wash, and certainly don't take any shortcuts by 'masking' your personal scent with perfume; B.O plus fragrance is basically a mosquito magnet double whammy.
If you want to be serious about avoiding mosquito bites, make the switch to unscented. And don't forget the 3 D's of mosquito control: Drain, Dress & Defend!