Why are certain people magnets for mosquitoes and others oblivious to their presence?
By: April Carson
Mosquitoes are a common nuisance at outdoor gatherings in the summertime. They swatter them away, sit in campfire smoke, cover themselves with blankets, and eventually give up and go inside. On the other side of the spectrum, there are several individuals who don't appear to be affected by mosquitoes at all. They can sit outside for hours without a single mosquito bite.
There are a few reasons why some people are magnets for mosquitoes while others aren't. One reason is that mosquitoes are attracted to certain chemicals that are present in human skin. These chemicals include but aren't limited to: lactic acid, uric acid, carbon dioxide, and certain types of body odor.
Although there are several species of mosquitoes, they all require a proteinaceous diet to develop a batch of eggs. Female mosquitoes only consume blood. Males obtain energy for flight by eating plant nectar and converting it to food.
Blood-feeding is vital for the mosquito’s reproductive success. Therefore, female mosquitoes are constantly evolving to be able to quickly and efficiently identify potential sources of blood, get a full blood meal, and then depart without being detected. If you find that mosquitoes are consistently biting you more than others, it may be because you unknowingly check off all the boxes on their search list.
Some mosquito species use sight, sound and olfactory cues to identify a potential blood source. Most night-active species rely on olfactory or receptor cues. The most important chemical cue is the carbon dioxide that all vertebrates release with each breath and through their skin.
Mosquitoes are highly sensitive to CO2, with receptors on their antennae and legs binding CO2 molecules and sending an electrical signal to the brain. The higher the CO2 concentration and the closer they are to the host, the more receptor cells on the mosquito's antennae and legs bind CO2 molecules and send an electrical signal to the brain. There are a variety of other chemicals present in human skin, sweat and breath that can also attract mosquitoes.
Yet, there are numerous sources of inanimate carbon dioxide like automobiles, ships, airplanes and locomotives. To tell animate from inanimate sources of CO2, mosquitoes depend on the olfactory secondary cues that living beings generate. Metabolic processes including respiration and movement create these smell clues, such as lactic acidity ammonia and fatty acids which act as extra olfactory hints to aid female mosquitoes locates their next blood meal.
Therefore, the production of carbon dioxide is the first criterion insects use to determine whether or not an animal is a potential host. The amount of CO2 and other attractants emitted by an animal are linked to its metabolic rate; thus, animals with higher metabolic rates produce more attractants. Metabolic rate can be determined genetically, but it also varies depending on physical activity levels.
Summer get-togethers are an excellent opportunity to meet potential customers. Human mosquito magnets you can find at these gatherings may have a faster metabolic rate or be more physically active than other people. They could also be consuming alcohol, which raises their metabolic rate. During their cooldown stretching exercises, runners attract more mosquitoes since their metabolic rate increases. Pregnant women, perhaps because of their higher metabolic rate, are naturally attractive to mosquitoes in comparison to non-pregnant individuals.
Mosquitoes use body odors to choose their hosts. For example, some species of Anopheles mosquitoes are attracted to specific components of foot odor. These mosquitoes transmit human malaria and feed indoors in the middle of the night. By feeding on a sleeping person’s feet, the mosquitoes avoid the head, where most of the CO2 is produced, and reduce the chance of waking the victim.
How do psychological factors play a role?
Mosquitoes also have a psychological impact. Some individuals may be oblivious to the mosquitoes flying around them. When one mosquito flies around some people, there is often an aggressive reaction - you've certainly seen someone go crazy trying to find out where the bothersome droning sound of one mosquito is coming from in order to dispatch its tiny bloodsucker. But other people seem to be true mosquito magnets. No matter what time of day it is or how many mosquitoes are present, these unlucky few always seem to get bitten. If you're one of these people, you may have even given up on outdoor activities altogether during mosquito season.
Some people don't even react or notice the mosquitoes that are feeding off of them. There are even some mosquito species that go for harder-to-reach places like ankles, making it difficult to swat them away. For example, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes usually target human beings. These mosquitoes are known to transmit diseases like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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