5 things that make you irresistible to mosquitoes
Ah, summertime! That warm and wonderful time of year synonymous with bike rides and backyard barbecues. The downside, though, is that you're going to get bitten, unless you're in the lucky minority (15 percent) of people that mosquitoes tend to avoid. As it turns out, a fertile combination of odors, body heat, and chemical compounds exuded from the skin make certain folks more susceptible to bug bites than others. Here, in no particular order, are five things that may make you — you tasty human, you — more delectable to the blood-sucking menaces than your peers:
Here's some bad news: Consuming alcohol may make your blood tastier to mosquitoes, according to a 2011 French study. Researchers discovered that the alcoholic equivalent of three cans of beer can lead to 30 percent more bug bites, at least for men in a controlled laboratory setting.
Although it's unclear why the insects prefer their humans boozed up (it may have something to do with warmer body temperatures), mosquitoes have also been shown to feed on fermenting fruit and plants from time to time. In fact, a special enzyme that helps the insects break down alcohol before it hits the nervous system might allow them to drink you, a much-larger creature, under the table. According to Popular Science, "Bugs are no lightweights, often withstanding vapor concentrations of 60 percent alcohol." That's far more than the buzz from a few beers. And no, that isn't a challenge.
As it turns out, mosquitoes are big fans of your chiseled summer bod. According to a 2008 study, exercise triggers a trifecta of biological signals that make your fleshy exterior especially delicious to the blood-thirsty pests. "The main things are how you smell and how hot you are," Susan Paskewitz, a University of Wisconsin-Madison entomology professor, tells the New York Times. Body temperature, carbon dioxide in the breath, and chemicals like lactic acid (which builds up in the muscles when we work out) all serve to paint a big, blinking arrow that tells mosquitoes exactly where their next meal is going to be.
3. Blood type
People with type O blood are much more susceptible to mosquito bites than other blood groups, per a 2004 study. The insects were a whole 83 percent (!!!) more likely to quietly land on someone with type O blood than someone with type B, A, or even AB, especially if they secreted a chemical marker through their skin.
4. Being a dude
Bad news for the bros: A report in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that men are more likely to be attacked by bugs than women are. According to the study, "Larger persons tend to attract more mosquitoes, perhaps because of their greater relative heat or carbon dioxide."
As if pregnant women weren't already dealing with enough bodily discomfort, increased body temperatures and carbon dioxide output may make them — especially their warm bellies — the ideal target for the buzzing little plasma-suckers. A 2000 study in the Lancet found that pregnant women attracted twice as many mosquitoes as their non-preggo peers.
So what's the lesson here? If you are a tiny, non-carrying female with type AB blood who plans on never exercising, consuming an alcoholic beverage, or spending any time outdoors whatsoever this summer, congratulations! You've won the mosquito-bite aversion lottery.
For everyone else, though, it is recommended that you slather on insect repellant under your sunscreen before heading outside. (WebMD has a list of six highly recommended repellents here.) And even then: Try not to scratch too much when the inevitable happens. Good luck!