If you are an overweight, beer-drinking, O-blood-type man or woman who wears strong colored clothes as you dabble with exercise, beware of the pesky “mozzie” (Australian slang for “mosquito”). You may be attracting an unwanted predator who delights herself in sucking your blood.
And if you happen to be pregnant, well, those insects are going to make your life miserable. But take heart, there are some measures you can take to avoid them swarming after you for a taste of your blood. There are many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes—some of them, such as Zika, malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever, can be very serious, even fatal. It is wise to avoid being bitten by one of the deadliest animals on the planet.
Let’s take a look at why they want you, and what you can change to break their hearts.
There is nothing you can do to change your blood type, and if you scored type O blood, well, you are going to be more appealing than other groups. In fact, one study determined you would be twice as likely to be bitten as a type O than a type A. The only mosquito tested for this was the Asian tiger mosquitoe (Aedes albopictus)—there are 3,000 more species to go.
If you are a type O negative, you are among the prized elite, as your blood is worth bottling. It is known as the “universal donor,” which means anyone in need of a transfusion can be given it, making you rather special. No wonder the mozzies are after you.
“It’s all in the genes.” How many times have we heard this as an explanation for our physical or mental state? When it comes to who mozzies like to target, that saying holds some truth. Scientific research has determined that 85 percent of our susceptibility to bites is determined by our genetic makeup. And what about the genetics of the mozzies? News is that they have a gene that helps them decide just who to bite. This scientific discovery applies to the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has been responsible for millions of deaths worldwide as a result of dengue fever and the Zika virus. Scientists are hoping that through genetic modification they will be able to eradicate these mosquitoes.
Researchers released millions of sterile Aedes aegypti mosquitoes around Cairns in far north Queensland, Australia; they were infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, making male mosquitoes infertile. Scientists hope this will control the disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Colors Can Make You a Target
You probably never realized that the bright-red dress or black T-shirt was causing you to stand out to the mozzies, did you? How come your friend, all dressed in white, is not swatting away, while you are smarting from constantly smacking at them as they poise ready to suck out your blood? Mozzies can zero in on their target by seeing you, especially if you happen to be dressed in red, black, navy or bright blue. And because you are violently moving about to avoid them, you become an easier target. Doesn’t sound fair.
High Carbon Dioxide Production
Once the female mozzie has singled you out with her vision, she then hones in on you. The carbon dioxide you exhale holds major appeal to her, and she can smell you from 164 feet away. It won’t matter what type of deodorant you wear, what she is smelling are the substances from your breath and perspiration. Lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and acetone are all being detected from your sweat as well as the carbon dioxide from your lungs. In addition, your body temperature has risen due to your larger size, or your exercise regime, and she just loves you for it. This is why pregnant women are also a target; body size is larger and body heat has increased, and so has the amount of carbon dioxide being exhaled. Plus, there are many other compounds present in the odors released by the skin, at least 350 of them, in fact.
Once you drink 12 ounces (approx. 355 milliliters) of beer, mozzies are gonna love you regardless of your shirt color, gene pool, or any other attractant. You just ripped the lid off that cold beer bottle that is now releasing bubbles—guess what? Those bubbles are carbon dioxide, just what the critters love. The beer has also increased your body temperature and you are sweating a bit more than normal. Oh, and that goes for other carbonated drinks as well.
So, What Works for Prevention?
There are plenty of things we can do to protect ourselves from being bitten.
This is the most effective thing you can do while outdoors at dusk or night time and you are in a mozzie-infested area. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, trousers with the bottom tucked into your thick socks, and a hat with face netting. Staying indoors at dawn and dusk will help minimize mozzie bites.
This insect repellent, developed by the U.S. army more than 70 years ago, is still repelling mosquitos. While it doesn’t kill them, it plays havoc with their antennae, stopping them from homing in on those attractive gases and chemicals you exude. Remember, it is a man-made chemical, although research has concluded it is safe for humans and children, but should not be used on young babies. Reactions to DEET are extremely rare, but have happened.
Natural Bug Repellents
So you’re not convinced spraying chemicals on the skin to ward off mozzies is the way to go; take heart, there are some reliable and safety-tested natural products on the market. The soy-based Bite Blocker for Kids was found to be the best alternate method to DEET, according to a study done in 2002. See the full list here of natural and chemical insect repellents considered effective.
Keep mozzies outside
Use screens on windows and doors to keep you on the inside and them on the outside. If you don’t have screens, use a mosquito net over the bed at night. Remove all sources of stagnant water around your home, mosquitoes only need a tiny bit to breed in, such as the saucers your prized plants sit on; you’ll need to check them regularly. A natural bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis can be safely added to ponds and water features to kill mozzies.