It happens every year. You and some friends and family get together for a summer cookout in your backyard or at the park, or maybe you spend a late night out on the lake. At the end of the night, some friends will find themselves covered in bright red itchy bug bites, while others head home scot-free. Why are some people more prone to mosquito bites than others?
As it turns out, the answer is not so simple.
“Through a ton of research, it’s been shown there are 400 or more chemical compounds on human bodies that play a role in attraction — or not — to mosquitoes,” said Janis Reed, technical services manager for Control Solutions Inc. and entomology correspondent for Mosquito Squad. “Each species of mosquito that can bite people is attracted or not because of these chemicals.”
There isn’t just one chemical that makes you more attractive to mosquitoes — it’s a combination that is determined by your genetic makeup. Chemicals are released as you sweat, and they interact with the several kinds of bacteria and other compounds that are on your skin to create your unique body odors. Lactic acid and ammonia are two compounds that are commonly found on human skin that have been found to attract mosquitoes. Some people exude body odors that are more attractive to mosquitos than others, which may lead to them getting more bites.
Your body heat can also play a factor. Mosquitoes, more specifically females, tend to gravitate toward a heat source. While you’re working in the yard or doing your daily exercises in the park, your body will naturally generate more heat, which can attract more mosquitoes.
Changes in carbon dioxide levels can also contribute to getting mosquito bites. Humans naturally breathe out carbon dioxide and can produce even more when we're being active, such as walking, running and more. Mosquitoes can detect a change in carbon dioxide in the environment and an increase can alert them to move closer to that area. This is the reason why pregnant women are at a greater risk for mosquito bites. Pregnant women experience more body heat as well as exhale more breath, and thus more carbon dioxide, than non-pregnant women.
It’s important to take extra precautions if you’re more susceptible to mosquito bites. Even though mosquitoes can’t spread coronavirus, they can spread other deadly diseases, such as West Nile virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using insect repellent, covering up exposed skin and more preventative measures to protect yourself. Although they’re an everyday summer pest, mosquitoes are actually among the most dangerous bugs in the world.