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Science Made Simple
by TaLonne Mefford

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You’re trying your best to enjoy the evening’s cookout, but a constant swarm of mosquitoes follows you everywhere you go. A bite from a mosquito leaves behind an itchy red welt and possibly even a serious illness. You swat at the mosquitoes constantly, and you notice that others seem completely unbothered by these pests. Could it be that mosquitoes prefer you more than other people?

According to mosquito experts, the answer is yes. Mosquitoes do exhibit blood-sucking preferences, but it isn’t dinner the mosquito is sucking out of you. Only female mosquitoes bite. They need blood to develop fertile eggs, and apparently, not just anyone’s blood will do.

Female mosquitoes have many sensors that allow them to find a potential target. They can use visual, heat, and chemical sensors to find targets. Some targets are much easier to find than others. This could be because you are warmer, more visible, or you emit more chemical scents than others.

There are over 300 chemicals emitted by the human body and mosquitoes are able to hone in on them. If you are unfortunate enough to produce more chemicals than most people, you may find yourself as a target for mosquitoes more often.

Certain chemicals found in sweat seem to attract female mosquitoes to their targets. Another possibility to mosquito susceptibility is that you sweat more than the people around you. The more sweat on your skin the more visible you are to a mosquito. Once a mosquito lands on your skin, it “tastes” you before biting. If the mosquito finds the chemicals on your skin to be distasteful, then it could move onto a more appealing target.

The process of selection begins even before landing. Mosquitoes can smell their target from an impressive 55 yards. Any type of carbon dioxide is attractive, even over long distances. Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes tend to choose adults over children. Pregnant women are also at an increased risk since they produce a larger amount of carbon dioxide than normal. Movement and heat also attract more mosquitoes.

Heat sensors allow mosquitoes to pick up body heat and use this as means to locate you. If you are more active, or have a higher body temperature, you have an increased chance of becoming a mosquito target. Also, the clothing you are wearing can make you a better target. If you are wearing clothing that contrasts with the background, and especially if you move around, mosquitoes can zero in on you.

Scientists have yet to figure out what it is that mosquitoes like the best, but they have found many factors that can contribute to mosquito selection. Until more research can be conducted, the best bet to reduce your chance as a mosquito target is to invest in some good insect repellent.


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