In most places, from May to September marks mosquito season. I remember growing up in Florida and wearing long blue jeans in the 100 degree heat, just so I could protect my legs from being an “all you can eat buffet” for these omniscient and relentless six legged predators. I always thought they particularly liked my blood because I ate bananas. Surprisingly, however, science shows that these insects do have a blood sucking preference for meals. These discoveries are great tools for populations that are at risks for medical diseases such as malaria and West Nile, for instance. This being said, there is ongoing research being conducted to better pinpoint what exactly mosquitoes are attracted to.
Aside from the obvious physical factors of a person and place (body movement, moisture and still waters, floral fragrance, dark clothes, body heat, pregnancy, blood type, lactic acid, and levels of carbon dioxide), there are additional foods that people consume that may send those buzzing insects to your watering hole. Actually, scientists agree that genetics account for a great 85% of a person’s susceptibility to mosquito bites. They’ve also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin’s surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer.
According to the National Mosquito and Pest Association, scientists have identified several proteins found in mosquitoes’ antennae and heads that latch on to chemical markers, or odorants, emitted from our skin. “These markers are produced by the natural processes of our bodies and, like neon signs; they let the mosquitoes’ smell center know you’re around.”
In fact, people with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes more than people with low levels. Mosquitoes also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid, reports the Entomological Society of America) These substances can trigger mosquitoes’ sense of smell, luring them to land on unsuspecting victims.
Like a bear in the forest that can smell unopened tuna can inside a cabin’s refrigerator, mosquitoes have similar talents and can smell their dinner from an impressive distance of up to 50 meters. For people who emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, this is not good news, because any type of carbon dioxide is attractive to mosquitos. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults to small children. Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. Movement and heat also attract mosquitoes.
Here is another interesting fact: mosquitos are attracted to body movement. Say you are at an outdoor BBQ, for instance. The person throwing the football around is more likely to get bitten compared to the spectators watching all the action. Mosquitoes sense people’s movement and head toward them. When people pant from exertion, the smell of carbon dioxide from heavy breathing and the lactic acid from sweat glands draws them even closer. Mothers-to-be exhale 21 percent more carbon dioxide than people who are pregnant and their body temperature runs slightly warmer, too. Sorry women carrying sweet babies . . . you are looking hot and delicious to those hungry mosquitos.
The following foods may greatly decrease chances of mosquitoes feasting on your sweet juices:
1. Garlic: garlic contains a chemical compound that seeps from the skin pores and masks the natural body odors like carbon dioxide, sweat and lactic acid.
2. Citrus fruits: oranges, limes and lemons
3. Vitamin B1 “Thiamine”
4. Onions: eat them to prevent bites and rub them on bites to stop itching
6. Spicy Foods: most spicy foods have base ingredients containing onions, chilies, garlic and coriander spices, which are all reputed to have mosquito repelling qualities.
According to www.chemistry.com, the following are natural mosquito repellants:
•Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
•Possibly Oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajeput, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic
resources: mayoclinic.com, cdc.gov, webmd