Virtually everyone who has spent any time outdoors in warmer climates has donated a small amount of their blood to mosquitoes. Many people feel that they are the mosquito’s favorite food source as they seem to be targeted by the little bloodsuckers more than others. There is some truth to this, as research has shown mosquitoes are attracted to their prey through various mechanisms, and some people are more susceptible to being bitten than others. Fortunately, you can do things to make yourself less attractive to mosquitoes, avoid being bitten, and treat bites if the bugs get through your defenses.
Aside from being a total nuisance and causing itchy welts, mosquitoes carry several viruses. These viruses can cause serious illness and even death if left untreated, and the bugs are directly responsible for more than a million deaths worldwide each year. While they don’t all carry disease, mosquitoes can be a serious threat, so protecting yourself and your family from being bitten is vital. The most important and effective step is to wear an effective mosquito repellent when venturing outdoors when mosquitoes are most active.
Malaria results in severe flu-like illness and can lead to death. Zika virus has life-altering implications and can cause microcephaly, resulting in babies being born with brain damage. West Nile virus is the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease in the United States. Approximately one in 150 people infected with West Nile each year develop serious complications that can lead to death. While most people won’t even know they are infected, symptoms can include fever, headache, and body aches.
Why Mosquitoes Bite
While it is a little know fact, only the female mosquito bites animals to get the protein she needs to nourish her eggs. The male mosquitoes feed solely on the nectar of plants, like bees, and are beneficial. However, just because they don’t bite and help pollinate plants, the male mosquito is still a pesky little guy when he comes buzzing around. Fortunately, a good mosquito repellent spray or lotion is effective on both mosquito sexes.
Things that Attract Mosquitoes to People
Mosquitoes don’t go after people randomly, and there are several reasons mosquitoes are attracted to one person and not others. These factors include everything from your blood type to the color of the clothing you wear. Following is a list of things mosquitoes are attracted to:
- Genetics and blood type play a role in attracting mosquitoes to some people, and studies have demonstrated mosquitoes do show a marked preference for people with blood type O. Other chemicals produced by some bodies also emit scents mosquitoes find attractive.
- Mosquitoes feed on warm-blooded creatures, like mammals and birds, and are attracted to the heat their bodies generate. The mosquito’s eyes have sensors that pick up the infrared heat warm-blooded creatures emit, and the people that generate the most heat, like pregnant females and overweight people, will attract the most mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to the odor of perspiration and the high moisture content. This means the more you exert yourself, the more the bugs will be attracted to you. Exercise also raises your body temperature.
- The carbon dioxide you exhale draws mosquitoes to you, and certain people, such as those with O-negative blood, emit certain chemicals in their breath that mosquitoes hone in on.
- Research has shown that people who regularly consume alcohol attract more mosquitoes because alcohol raises body temperature and perspiration.
- The mosquito’s vision is based on shapes and colors, and the bugs zero in on the silhouette of dark and bright objects.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to sweet scents such as those used in soaps, lotions, deodorants, and perfumes. Believe it or not, some preparations used to repel bugs have scents that will attract mosquitoes. If you are unsure about the repellent you are using, choosing an odorless bug spray will help avoid confusion.
Things that Attract Mosquitoes in Yards
- Plants like tall grass, weeds, and bushes, especially in low-lying areas that allow water to collect, will attract mosquitoes as these places are prime spots for females to live and breed.
- Things that hold water, such as bird baths, old tires, wheel barrels, buckets, and anything else that collects water and allows it to be stagnant.
- While big electric zappers attract bugs, studies have shown that zappers typically only attract beneficial bugs, like the male mosquito, and do not attract females.
The best way to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes is to wear an effective bug spray. An odorless bug spray will keep mosquitoes at bay for people who don’t like the smell of insect repellent. For those worried about repellents with harsh chemicals, there are highly effective preparations that use picaridin, derived from the pepper plant, as the active ingredient.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
In addition to wearing repellent, the following are several other ways that will help prevent mosquito bites:
- Loose-fitting clothing is recommended as mosquitoes can easily bite through tight-fitting clothing. However, tighter clothing can be treated with a mosquito repellent spray.
- Wearing neutral-colored clothing will help you avoid detection.
- As mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide produced by respiration, foods like chocolate and mints can cover the chemical messenger that causes the odor that attracts the bugs.
- As evening and early morning are the times of peak mosquito activity, avoid going into areas where mosquitoes live during these periods.
- Eliminate areas where mosquitoes can breed by cutting tall grass, removing yard debris, cleaning rain gutters, and emptying and covering anything that can hold water. The water in birdbaths should be changed every couple of days to prevent it from going stagnant.
Treating Insect Bites
While there are health risks associated with being bitten, and these should not be ignored, most mosquito bites will only cause a small itchy welt. Mosquito bites are easily treatable by taking the following steps:
- Avoid scratching the bite as it only exacerbates the itching and can lead to infection if bacteria gets into the bite site.
- Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress to the bite to reduce size and itching.
- Use a commercially prepared bite treatment.
- Apply calamine, hydrocortisone, or antihistamine lotion, or take an over-the-counter antihistamine medication.
When to See a Doctor
You should seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, if the bite does not improve within 48 hours or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of West Nile virus, Zika Virus, malaria, or other severe unexplained symptoms.
Armed with these facts, you are now better equipped to deal with the ever-pesky mosquito. While all the information presented herein is valuable, the most critical takeaway is always wearing an effective mosquito repellent when venturing near a mosquito habitat. Proven Insect Repellent makes a full line of picaridin-based insect repellents, including a 12-hour odorless bug spray that offers effective protection for the whole family. ProvenⓇ picaridin-based repellents repep biting insects, including ticks that may transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, and Encephalitis. ProvenⓇ products are sold online at ProvenRepellent.com, Amazon and in-store at Meijer, Tractor Supply Company, Target and ACE Hardware.