It is a fact that mosquitoes prefer to bite some people before others. We have all had a roommate in our summer in life. Whether it’s a brother, a cousin, a husband, a great-aunt … or we may have even lived with a teenage army under the same tent in the camp. And many of us have had the impression that we were always bitten by mosquitoes while other people slept peacefully with their skin intact. Or vice versa.
Popular theories about mosquito preferences
As the Spanish we are very of elaborating theories, especially if we are in summer and we do not have much more to do, we have invented a few in this regard. Surely one of you has ever spoken (or spit on) any of these phrases:
- Mosquitoes bite me more than you because I have very sweet blood.
- Mosquitoes bite me more than you because you are a pig that you don’t wash and they run away from you.
- My baby is bitten by mosquitoes because he has very tender skin.
Well, I am sorry to disappoint you but none of these theories is correct. We are going to disassemble them one by one …
1. Mosquitoes don’t bite because the blood is sweet
First of all, the mosquito does not have a radar to determine the degree of sweetness through the skin. At least I should peck to taste it. But it is also that the blood is not sweet, but salty since it contains sodium chloride in its composition. If there are variations in the electrolytes, the body is regulated through homeostasis to keep the sodium chloride levels more or less constant in the blood.
It is true that a diabetic person with hyperglycemia would have higher blood glucose levels and their blood could be sweeter. But it is also true that the symptoms and consequences of diabetes are well studied and characterized. There is no indication that there is a relationship between diabetes and mosquito bites.
2. Mosquitoes like sweat
The mosquitoes (because they are the ones that bite to be able to lay the eggs) have sensory cells in their antennas capable of detecting certain volatile compounds generated by humans. Some of these volatile compounds especially like them and attract them to get closer to the human being that emits them (1).
Whether a person generates these compounds or not depends on genetics (2). If a person with a predisposition to generate these compounds (and therefore, to be stung) takes a shower before going to bed to eliminate the odor, he would be precisely more protected against bites since he is eliminating the substance that attracts bugs .
As a curiosity, a study showed that ‘Anopheles gambiae’ mosquitoes liked the smell of cheese from the ‘Limburger cheese’ variety. This could be because the bacteria involved in cheese production was similar to another that lives on human feet. In fact, only mosquito species that feed on humans are attracted to this cheese (6).
Conclusion : It is not necessary to say that mosquitoes run away from someone because they are a piggy that does not wash, mosquitoes are cool with body odor and washing is one way to protect ourselves.
3. High levels of CO2 can attract mosquitoes.
CO2 levels can function as a claim to attract mosquitoes (3, 4)
And who produces high levels of CO2? Well, bigger people and not exactly babies or small children. Although we have this idea in mind and they also bite, children really are not the “ideal target” to attract the attention of a mosquito. On the other hand, pregnant women specifically emit a higher amount of CO2.
Bonus: Mosquitoes like brewers.
Or rather, the body odors that are generated when a person consumes beer. There are studies (5) that show how beer consumption can attract mosquitoes such as Anopheles gambiae , the vector of malaria in Africa.
Other aspects that attract mosquitoes can be body temperature (the warmer the better) and humidity.
There are many factors involved in the decision a mosquito makes when choosing its victim and, of course, much more complicated than having the famous “sweet blood” myth.
The most recent studies show that the genetic component that predisposes some subjects to others is decisive. Therefore, deepening your study could really be very interesting. Fortunately, in our country, a mosquito bite does not usually go beyond a local nuisance (or in the worst case of an infectious cellulite or an allergic reaction as we explain here ). However, in other countries mosquitoes are transmitters of diseases such as dengue, malaria, yellow fever, Zika virus, etc. In fact, the tiger mosquito , which lives among us, in other countries is a transmitter of some of these diseases.