The summer solstice has passed and the fireworks have blasted, so it’s prime time for cookouts, campouts, and hangouts—all outside, of course. Whether backyard barbecues or backcountry backpacking is more your style, there’s no better time to enjoy the great outdoors. Of course, the desire to make the most of the season is also shared by pretty much everything else alive, including buzzing and bothersome bugs like mosquitos. Ever wonder why some people are mosquito-resilient and others are mosquito-magnetic? Turns out, there’s a lot of science that’s gone into figuring out what draws those pests to people.
You may have heard that mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide—and it’s true. Female mosquitoes need blood for the nutritious proteins and iron it contains to make their eggs and reproduce, and since everything with blood produces carbon dioxide, those buzzing baddies have a strong evolutionary incentive to be able to track down higher volumes of CO2 in their environment. In fact, mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 160 feet away! The bottom line: the more carbon dioxide a person exhales, the more likely they are to attract more bloodsuckers. This may also explain why adults are more likely to be feasted upon than children—larger creatures simply expel more carbon dioxide.
But it’s not just carbon dioxide that attracts our annoying friends. Mosquitoes are attracted to people with higher body temperatures, bright colors, and can actually sense the presence of lactic acid (produced when you exercise), uric acid (produced when you digest your summer picnic), ammonia, and other chemicals found in sweat. The harsh reality: if you’re a large mammal, running around in a red tank top, and breathing heavily (say, playing badminton on the lawn), congratulations—you’re the bullseye for mosquitos. And if you chased that badminton win by shotgunning a cold one? One study found that after a single can of beer, drinkers were significantly more tasty to mosquitos. The researchers couldn’t exactly explain why, but one thing is for sure: mosquitoes are ordering the bloody mary.
To make things even weirder, mosquitoes also find some blood types more appealing than others. The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study demonstrating that mosquitoes prefer folks with Type O blood almost twice as much as people with Type A, while folks with Tybe B blood were somewhere in the middle. How do those pesky mosquitoes even know without getting a taste first? Turns out approximately 85% of people secrete a chemical from their skin that can be used to identify what blood type they have! Surprising no one, mosquitoes are more attracted to those 85% than to the 15%’ers. You can’t fault them for being efficient.
Armed with this new knowledge, rest assured that you can do something to minimize your mosquito exposure—like avoiding alcohol outside on extra-buggy nights and making sure you have proper clothing coverage. Of course, you’ll definitely want to avoid chemical bombing yourself and your loved ones with commercial bug sprays or synthetic DEET oils. Instead, check out our kid-safe Mosquito Wipes, which repel those baddies with a formula that’s DEET-free, worry-free, and icky-smell free. Made with safe, hardworking ingredients that are safe and effective, these wipes will level the playing field if you’re one of those extra-delicious types.