You are out enjoying summer at its best. The sun is just starting to go down, and the air is quietly still. Your cushioned lawn chair cradles you as you unwind and relax with a glass of pinot noir on your deck. Conversation with your spouse is about your long work day, and you pay little attention to the back of your leg until you feel a sharp nip on your thigh. You notice two areas with puffy white bumps with swelling. The dreaded mosquitoes have attacked you before you were even aware of their presence.
What do they want? The biting culprits are the female mosquitoes. They have bitten you to feed on your blood. As they remove the blood (with its important protein) from your thigh, they inject saliva into your skin which triggers a mild immune reaction that produces the bump and the resulting itching sensation. Their male counterparts are not interested in biting you because they don’t need your protein, as they do not produce eggs. They prefer flower nectar for their nourishment.
Why do they choose ME? Are the little critters drawn to you just by stepping out the door? Some people are attractive to these pests while others can sit out all night and not be bothered. Mosquitoes use their senses to target their victims.
Here are some proven ways to attract these buzzing, irritating blood suckers:
- Breath heavily. The carbon dioxide you exhale alerts the mosquitoes to your presence, and they will quickly locate you. Carbon dioxide signals a female mosquito that a protein dinner is near, as they are very sensitive to CO2 in the air. Larger people and pregnant women give off more carbon dioxide than children or smaller adults.
- Be active. Their first clue to your presence is the mosquito’s sense of sight. So go for a run, play softball, work in your garden—any kind of movement will attract their attention.
- Wear your favorite perfume. They love floral tones especially. Better yet, forget to shower. They will find you by your body odor, and appreciate you for your slovenliness.
- Work up a sweat. Again, see No. 3 above. Perspiration attracts the pesky insects with both odor and moisture—a mosquito’s ideal target. Lactic acid from your sweat glands draws them to you without any effort on your part.
- Wear a blue shirt. Or black pants. Mosquitoes’ prefer dark colors over light. Throw out the white shorts and bring on the blue jeans.
Keep in mind that there are chemicals made to repel these insects such as DEET, picardin, and metofluthrin. Or you could try a more natural approach using products such as lemon eucalyptus oil, thiamine (B1) patches, citronella, or peppermint. There are mosquito traps and insect-shield repellant clothes available.
Check around your yard for any sign of standing water which is mosquito breeding material. Garbage cans, clogged gutters, bird baths, and plastic toys all need to be checked, as they often become water-holding devices.
Mosquito bites most often are an annoyance we deal with in the summer, but keep in mind that some of these insects carry mosquito-transmitted diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, and malaria, all of which can be life-threatening. Prevention and knowledge go a long way in minimizing the impact of these summertime pests.