University of Florida entomologist Jonathan Day spends his days getting bitten by mosquitoes so the rest of us don’t have to. Day specifically works on studying the potential risk of getting mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus every year in that particular state. Because of his unique work, Day has to spend a good deal of his time hanging out in mosquito hotbeds, while his team records how many mosquitoes land on him in a minute, among other notes. After studying this insect’s habits and preferences over the years, this has given Day much insight when it comes to what will attract them to a human. He has his own list of recommendations on how to minimize your chances of being bitten by a mosquito while you are outside. Of course, his ideal strategy is not going to be everyone’s idea of fun, as it involves standing by yourself in a corner at your next outdoor gathering while wearing all white, keeping completely still, not drinking any alcohol, and spraying your entire body with DEET. There are, of course, less extreme ways of following Day’s advice, and here are some of the biggest factors involved.
Unfortunately, one of the best things you can do to avoid mosquito bites is to stay away from other people. Mosquitoes use the carbon dioxide we exhale to detect people from a distance when they are looking for their next meal. Mosquitoes fly upwind, meaning the carbon dioxide that is emitted from large gatherings of people blows downwind straight towards those mosquitoes. Since they use this cue for mostly finding meals from a long distance, detecting and following a large amount of the gas coming from a group of people as opposed to one person alone, making that person safer and less visible to mosquitoes. Being antisocial could actually save your life in this instance.
While drinking a cool beer with your friends at a barbecue is a favorite summer pastime for many, drinking alcohol can also make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Several experiments have concluded this, and one study found this to be true even after the participants drank just one single beer. While experts still aren’t certain as to why this is the case, it could be related to alcohol increasing blood flow to the skin. Either way, the lesson is the more alcohol you drink, the more mosquitoes you will attract.
Mosquitoes can be rather discriminatory when it comes to their blood meals, and they seem to have a thing for pregnant women. Studies have found that mosquitoes tend to bite pregnant women twice as much as women that are not pregnant. The reason in this case is easy to figure out. On the whole pregnant women have warmer body temperatures and exhale more carbon dioxide because of the extra metabolic work required from the body when it is growing another human. This was found by one study to amount to 21 percent more carbon dioxide and 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
What do you do to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes when you are outside?