What Attracts Mosquitoes?

“Zzzz” would be a nice indicator that you are about to be bitten by a mosquito. However, most people do not know they have been bitten until after the fact. So, what makes these pesky bugs bite and how do they choose who they will bite? More importantly, can they be stopped? In order to answer these questions, it helps to understand a bit of mosquito biology.

Why are mosquito bites so bad?

Unfortunately, a mosquito bite is not something that goes unnoticed. Mosquitoes leave behind their symptoms for days: itching, redness and swelling. A person that is bitten by a mosquito usually feels the effects immediately. Unfortunately the trouble does not stop there for some people. Some can experience severe allergic reactions or contract a dangerous disease.

Why do mosquitoes bite?

So, what makes a mosquito bite? First, it is important to understand that male mosquitoes do not bite. Yes, that’s right – the females are the culprits. However, some studies will suggest that some male and some female mosquitoes bite. But only females feed on blood for reproduction.

These ladies are after a substance in our blood called isoleucine. Isoleucine builds amino acid, which stimulates ovulation and egg production in the female mosquito. So biting becomes a survival mechanism for this species. Consequently, if a female fails to find this substance, then she produces no eggs.

Think of it in relationship to human pregnancy. Pregnant women are attracted to foods their bodies need, likewise are mosquitoes.

Who Do Mosquitoes Like?

Sometimes it seems that mosquitoes show favoritism: They prey on some people and not others – even in the same location. But there is more to becoming a victim than just location. Victims of the most frequent mosquito bites often are in the same family as bites are almost 90 percent genetically related. These people produce certain body chemistry elements – namely cholesterol and steroids – that make them more attractive to mosquitoes.

This does not necessarily mean that people who are bitten eat a lot of cholesterol. It has more to do with how that individual’s body processes the cholesterol.

Carbon dioxide is another product liked by mosquitoes. In high school biology class, you learned that people create carbon dioxide when they exhale. Therefore, environments with a lot of exhaling are attractive to mosquitoes. Sporting events are great examples.

And remember that mosquitoes like heat; movement creates heat and mosquitoes have a keen sense of heat detection and smell. In fact, they are able to find their victims at distances up to 30 feet away. If mosquitoes are in the area, heavy breathing, heat and the right genetic disposition will draw them in.

Mosquitoes also prefer the blood of adults over children since their bodies are larger and produce more of their favorite gas and chemicals. Pregnant women are more likely to be bitten than other people. Because they are creating a new human, they exhale a greater amount of carbon dioxide.

What External Environments Attract Mosquitoes?

Itching and swelling can be great motivations to stay away from areas where mosquitoes are likely to bite. Moisture attracts mosquitoes. Therefore, staying away from wet environments can help ward off their bites. Mosquitoes also like dark places. This is why mosquitoes come out at night and in the early morning. Warm summer nights by the lake are ideal feeding spots for mosquitoes.

How Not to Attract Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can be quite the nuisance. This is especially true during the right conditions. So knowing what attracts mosquitoes is half the battle. The use of repellants can reduce your body’s genetic attraction, and naturally-sourced substances such as citronella, eucalyptus and lavender can also deter mosquitoes.  Staying away from environments with excess moisture, heat and darkness can also help prevent the long lasting discomforts of a bite.

But if you can’t avoid these situations and you are bitten, follow these handy steps for fast and safe mosquito bite treatment.