Why Mosquitoes Bite You and Not Others

· June 3, 2016
While the popular saying goes that mosquitoes bite people who have sweeter blood, studies indicate that it's actually a genetic factor that attracts them.

Have you ever wondered, “Why do I always have to be on the lookout for bugs? What’s so special about me that they want me so much, biting me in the park or while I’m sleeping? How can I avoid being covered with mosquito bites on my arms and legs?” Well, here’s why mosquitoes bite you and not others.

If so, we recommend you read the following article where you’ll gain some new insight from the interesting data on this subject.

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What’s a Mosquito’s Life Like?

This particular insect feeds on the blood of animals and people and keeps a very busy daily agenda. To start out, it’s important to note that mosquitoes tend to attack during the hours around dawn and dusk.

It’s during these two times of day when the light of the sun is more diffused and it’s less hot outside. That’s when they take the opportunity to stock up on food.

It is the females who bite you because they need proteins from blood to lay eggs. This is especially so during their main reproductive period each year. Mosquito larvae can develop anywhere there is standing water (ponds, pools, lakes, etc.)

Male mosquitoes, on the other hand, feed on nectar, sap, and fruit juices.

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Woman spraying her leg with repellant
Mosquitoes are quite busy finding the right victim to meet their needs. That means that they check out their surroundings very thoroughly before feeding.

No doubt you’ve heard that annoying hum near your ear. This means that a mosquito is checking you out to see if you’re a worthy meal.

While there are a few different ways to deter the mosquito from snacking on you. For example, you could use mosquito repellent, fly swatters, ultrasound devices, etc. However, if it really wants to get you, it will!

You’ll have that pesky mosquito circling your body all day long until it achieves its goal.

Big red mosquito bite mosquitoes bite armWhy Do Mosquitoes Bite You and Not Others?

This is one of the most asked questions of all time. Some people say that they are sweeter than others, which is a popular theory. Likewise, others are convinced it has more to do with the smell your skin gives off, regardless of whether it’s sweet or not.

In the same room or outdoor area, you might find people who’ve literally been devoured by mosquitoes while others don’t have a single bite.

Different research teams have tried to get to the bottom of it and unravel the reasons why mosquitoes bite you and not others. In other words, why insects bite certain people but ignore others.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham (UK) and the University of Florida (USA) claim that it’s due to your genetics. They demonstrated that there’s a particular genetic component that can make you more or less attractive to mosquitoes. So, blame your genes the next time mosquitoes bite you!

Woman's arm scratching a lot due to mosquitoes biteWhy do Mosquitoes Pick Certain People?

How does the mosquito know your genetic makeup? Through your body odor, essentially. People who are less attractive to mosquitoes produce more repellent odors through their skin. Apparently, it’s all controlled by your genetics.

Your body odor could be the deciding factor of whether mosquitoes bite you or not. These studies were conducted using groups of identical and fraternal female human twins as mosquito bait.

The first group of identical human twins was bitten by more mosquitoes than the second group. This implies that genetics are to blame because identical twins are more similar genetically.

Furthermore, additional studies have indicated that mosquitoes prefer to bite people who smell a certain way in general.

Pregnant women are often the targets of the malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Africa. Likewise, people with more muscle mass or fat content are more attractive to gnats and mosquitoes in general.

Legs with mosquito bites all over them very red and swollen
Furthermore, there are a few other theories that also have to do with body odor but are based on the carbon dioxide that we exhale while breathing. Carbon dioxide is concentrated around humans because we release it every time we breathe.

More Reasons Why Mosquitoes Bite You

A team of researchers has also announced that people who accumulate more of a certain type of bacteria, especially staphylococci, on their skin are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes. Where can these odors come from?

  • Alcohol
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Pepper
  • Nylon clothing
  • Perfumes
  • Deodorants
Closeup of a mosquito biting a person mosquitoes bite

We’ve already told you what happens when the mosquito is checking you out. They use smell to interpret our body odor, which is at least partly related to genetics. However, there’s another factor: your body temperature.

This research, published by the BBC, suggests that mosquitoes are more tactical than any military strategy. Once they’ve targeted you by sight, smell, and temperature, they are certain to stay on course.

It all depends on how far away they are from the target. Body heat is usually perceived from a close distance and can ultimately trigger the attack.

How to Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Empty any containers where standing water can accumulate, such as dishes, sinks, baths, etc.
  • Don’t use scented soaps or strong perfumes. In addition, try to avoid hairspray.
  • Maintain proper hygiene to keep odors from becoming strong; avoid excessive sweating.
  • Wear clothing that covers your skin and avoid bright or dark colors.
  • Turn off the lights in your room.
  • Don’t open your windows at dusk.
  • Use mosquito nets for your bed, windows, and doors.
  • Apply mosquito repellent creams or sprays.

 

  • Fernández-Grandon, G. M., Gezan, S. A., Armour, J. A., Pickett, J. A., & Logan, J. G. (2015). Heritability of attractiveness to mosquitoes. PLoS One10(4), e0122716.
  • Kirk, K. M., Eaves, L. J., Meyer, J. M., Saul, A., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Twin study of adolescent genetic susceptibility to mosquito bites using ordinal and comparative rating data. Genetic Epidemiology: The Official Publication of the International Genetic Epidemiology Society19(2), 178-190.
  • Qiu, Y. T., Smallegange, R. C., Van Loon, J. J. A., Ter Braak, C. J. F., & Takken, W. (2006). Interindividual variation in the attractiveness of human odours to the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae ss. Medical and veterinary entomology20(3), 280-287.
  • Verhulst, N. O., Qiu, Y. T., Beijleveld, H., Maliepaard, C., Knights, D., Schulz, S., … & Mumm, R. (2011). Composition of human skin microbiota affects attractiveness to malaria mosquitoes. PloS one6(12), e28991.
  • Curtis, C. F., Lines, J. D., Ijumba, J., Callaghan, A., Hill, N., & Karimzad, M. A. (1987). The relative efficacy of repellents against mosquito vectors of disease. Medical and veterinary entomology1(2), 109-119.