Mosquitoes are one of the most important groups of insects affecting human’s health and wellbeing – they occupy diverse habitats, breed in our ponds and worst of all can transmit life-threatening diseases. In the best case, they are incredibly irritating. As one in five people are mosquito magnets, I want to look at some of the reasons why that is, and what you can do to reduce the chances of it being you!
Elizabeth Heubeck claims that ‘scientists do know that genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.’ Blood type and inheritance do play a part in how attractive you are to the nasty nibblers, a significant one, but here at the top five factors I believe to influence who is getting bitten.
1. Breathing CO2 emission
“Any type of carbon dioxide is attractive, even over a long distance,” said, Joe Conlon, PhD, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association, so it is almost inevitable that we will at least attract the occasional insect. Mosquitoes use an organ called the ‘Maxillary Palp’ to detect Carbon Dioxide and can do so for upwards of 150 feet! Therefore, those who exhale more CO2 naturally have an increased likelihood of attracting insects. However it is not just breathing that lures them in, every cell in the body emits CO2, internally and externally, so by merely existing we can be attractive insects to ourselves!
2. The more active the more attractive
As exercise produces more sweat, body heat and increases our CO2 emission, this raises an insect’s awareness to our whereabouts and makes the blood all the tastier for the mozzies. Not only is there more delectable detritus (organic material made up of dead skin and other waste products) building up on the skin but increased breathing rate means more CO2 emission. Mozzies are also partial to hunting down their victims via the detection of lactic acid, uric acid and ammonia, all of which is produced through intense exercise. So if you are one for a countryside run, this may be why you are getting bitten!
Now this one may be more based on speculation than the others four elements, however, evidence suggests that those who love a summer holiday beverage (even just the one!) are more likely to be bitten by insects. One study suggested that even one 350 ml bottle can increase your chances of being bitten because it affects your sweat production and skin temperature. The study tested the subjects before and after ingestion of alcohol (ethanol concentration 5.5%) by volunteers and compared them with a control subject. It demonstrated that the percent mosquitoes landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction. Although it is necessary to further investigate this factor further, it does appear to be effect how much you get bitten!
Pregnancy seems to be a big winner in the eyes of a mosquito. Pregnant women attract twice the amount of mosquitoes as they are about a degree warmer, and exhale 21% more carbon dioxide, two factors we already know to be attractants. The increase in attraction can vary depending on which species is concerned.
5. Colours; Striking colours or dark colours
Wear dark clothing can make you stand out to a mosquito; vibrant reds, purples and darks can illuminate your whereabouts to them so to reduce your chance of being bitten, simply where light coloured clothing!
Obviously, we cannot escape our genetics or stop breathing in order to reduce insect bites, however you can cover up in light clothing, avoid drinking alcohol when your in a high risk malaria area and remember to keep cool and keep that temperature down! In conjunction with this, using the incognito® range, particularly the signature spray and the hair and body wash, you can have total fresh smelling protection for five hours, even in the densest insect havens around the globe.