7 Reasons Mosquitoes Are Attracted to You, According to Science
You can avoid those itchy bites by skipping beer and wearing light colors.
Have you ever sat outside in a group where one person was a true mosquito magnet and others seemed completely immune to the pesky insect? According to entomologists and scientific studies, this isn't in your head: There are many research-backed reasons why mosquitoes are attracted to you. Some are completely out of your control and have to do with your genetic makeup, while others can be avoided by simply switching what you're wearing. Keep reading to learn more about these mosquito turn-ons and how you can stop them.
What Attracts Mosquitoes to You
1. You have blood type O.
As far back as the 1970s, scientists have been studying whether or not a person's blood type makes them more attractive to mosquitoes. But recent studies show that different mosquito species prefer different blood types, and "nearly 80 percent of people produce a secretion that signals what blood type they are," according to Shannon Harlow-Ellis, associate certified entomologist and technical specialist for Mosquito Joe, a Neighborly company.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology looked at the blood-type preferences of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, also known as Asian tiger mosquitoes. This species transmits viruses including dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever.
The researchers found that mosquitoes were more likely to land on "blood group O secretors," at 83.3 percent, compared to group A secretors, at 46.5 percent.
They also "compared the attraction to subjects according to blood groups using forearm skin treated with ABH antigens," and learned that the insects were more attracted to those with the H antigen (that of blood group O). It was followed by the A antigen (of blood group A), much more so than B.
2. You smell sweet.
"Mosquitoes are drawn to body odors such as sweat, lactic acid, and uric acid and are influenced by genetics and skin bacteria," explains Harlow-Ellis. "Each person has a unique scent that can make them more appealing to mosquitoes."
In fact, a May 2023 study conducted by Virginia Tech researchers found that if you use fruity or floral-scented soaps and fragrances, you're more likely to attract mosquitoes.
"Mosquitoes are naturally inclined to seek out sources of nectar, which is abundant in flowers, Vincent Luca, owner of On Demand Pest Control, previously explained to Best Life. "Therefore, when humans use scented products that mimic these floral aromas, mosquitoes are tricked into believing that there is a potential food source nearby."
3. You're sweaty.
As mentioned, mosquitoes might be drawn to you when you smell sweaty.
Researchers who conducted a 2019 study that was published in Current Biology "found a protein expressed in mosquitoes' antennae that detects human hosts by sniffing out the lactic acid in our sweat," explained Chemical & Engineering News.
Interestingly, the purpose of the study was to explore how gene-editing technologies can disrupt this protein in the insects and thereby safeguard people from mosquito-transmitted viruses.
4. You're hot.
Even if you're not actively sweating, if your body temperature rises, you might also be inviting mosquitoes to land on you.
Harlow-Ellis notes that mosquitoes "can sense body heat" and are "attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale," the latter of which increases when we're overheated, exercising, or out of breath.
She also points out that "mosquitoes find areas of exposed skin, like the neck and feet, particularly appetizing," so one way to keep them away is by wearing cool clothing that covers more of your body.
5. You're pregnant.
"Pregnant women emit higher body heat and exhale more carbon dioxide, making them more appealing hosts for mosquitoes," shares Harlow-Ellis.
In fact, a 2000 study published in the British Medical Journal found that pregnant women are twice as attractive to mosquitoes as non-pregnant women.
6. You drank beer.
An ice-cold beer on a hot day is one of summer's many pleasures—but if you find yourself being eaten alive by mosquitoes, you may want to switch to wine or water.
According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association (JAMCA), the percentage of mosquitoes "landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction."
There has been speculation that this is because beer raises your body temperature and makes you sweat, but mosquito scientist Grayson Brown, director of the Public Health Entomology Laboratory in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky, told CBS News that it might be because the insects can detect carbon dioxide from more than 100 feet away.
"CO2 comes bubbling out of a beer when it's opened," he said. "We know that mosquitoes use CO2 to get close to the mammals." For this reason, he recommended avoiding sodas and any other carbonated beverages, too.
For more pest advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
7. You're wearing red or black.
"Wearing dark colors that trap heat can make individuals more attractive to mosquitoes," says Harlow-Ellis. However, when it comes to your wardrobe choices, it's about more than just heat.
A 2022 study conducted by the University of Washington discovered that when mosquitoes detect CO2, it "stimulates the eyes to scan for specific colors and other visual patterns, which are associated with a potential host," explained biology professor and lead author Jeffrey Riffell via Sci News.
And the colors that they most easily detect are black, certain shades of blue, red, and orange. Darker hues like black create more contrast with their surroundings, which the bugs can pick up, while red and orange give off long-wave signals that they can sense.
To deter mosquitoes, experts recommend wearing light colors and pastels.
- Source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41459967
- Source: https://academic.oup.com/jme/article/41/4/796/885285
- Source: https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(23)00744-7
- Source: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30215-5
- Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1127358/
- Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12083361/
- Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-28195-x