Mosquito Magnets

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By Pam Teel

Mosquito magnet, I guess that would be me. Either the mosquitoes were really really bad this year or I must have looked mighty juicy to them. I could be in the yard next to my husband and in 5 minutes I’ll have a dozen bites, and him…. nothing. By the end of the day I look like I have the chicken pox. You don’t know how many bottles of calamine lotion I’ve been through this summer alone. I should have bought stock in it. To make it worse, my bites somehow get infected. I guess itching doesn’t help and neither does the old wives tale of eating a lot of garlic. Sweat brings out the odor of the garlic on your skin and it comes out of your pores after it breaks down in your system. It’s supposed to act as a repellent but I guess the Millstone Mosquitoes like a little seasoning with their dinner.

I asked a neighbor if the mosquitoes were eating her up alive this summer and she told me, “Not really.” How can that be? She lives one house down. We share the same air! I laughed when she told me that mosquitoes actually preferred certain blood types over others. I thought she was joking, but after reading up on it, I found it to be true. My blood type, type O positive, is like champagne to a mosquito. People with Type O blood are more than universal donors, and they’re a lot more “tastier” to mosquitoes. In fact, according to a study, certain species of the insect landed on the skin of people with Type O blood almost twice as often as they did on the skin of those with Type A. Guess who has type A, my husband! I guess Type A to a mosquito is like eating week old rotting liverwurst.

People secrete certain chemicals through their skin. The chemicals you produce will depend on your DNA, which also determines your blood type. Dr. Jonathan Day, a University of Florida medical entomologist and mosquito expert, says that some of these chemicals, like lactic acid, can attract more mosquitoes. Mosquitoes may be more attracted to people with Type O blood; however, it’s not the only factor that may cause them to choose to feed on you over someone else. A person’s metabolic rate could also attract mosquitoes. The insects use carbon dioxide as a means of locating the source of their meal. The higher your metabolic rate, the more carbon dioxide you produce, making you more attractive to mosquitoes. This means people who have recently worked out, pregnant women or those who just have high resting metabolic rates could be more attractive to mosquitoes.

The clothes you choose to wear can impact whether you attract mosquitoes, too. Mosquitoes are very visual and are attracted to darker colors. Therefore, if you’re not one to follow summer trends of lighter-colored clothes, you could be setting yourself up to pull in more mosquitoes. Here’s why. Mos- quitoes have problems flying in even a slight wind, and so they keep close to the ground. Down there, they spot hosts by comparing your silhouette to the horizon. Dark colors stand out, while light shades blend in. At the same time, lots of motion distinguishes you from your surroundings. So if you’re moving around a lot or gesturing, you might as well be shouting, “Hey, mosquitoes! I’m right here, ladies!” Did you know that only the females bite?

In addition, we tend to bare more skin in the summer, which gives mosquitoes more surface area of skin to land on, bite and feed. You can help lessen the odds of being bitten as much by wearing clothing that covers you up but doesn’t make you too hot.

Here’s a kicker, drinking beer and alcohol can make individuals especially delicious to a mosquito! Alcohol makes your blood vessels dilate, and warm blood moves closer to the surface of your skin. It doesn’t take much for that to happen either, just a sip, and that warmth attracts mosquitoes. Physically exerting yourself raises your metabolic rate and also your appeal to the mosquito. Some good advice, don’t drink a beer shortly after exercising and then go outside. You might as well have a target on your back!

Ways to cope:

Protective clothing can help. Lots of the lightweight, breathable fabrics made for athletes or fishermen are woven tightly enough to protect you from bugs. For those parts of your body you can’t cover up use a mosquito repellant with 15% DEET. Spray it into your hands and then rub it on your skin to avoid inhaling it. That’ll protect you for around 90 minutes. Also, mosquitoes usually feed at dawn and dusk when the wind tends to die down and the humidity rises. If you can stay indoors at those times, you’ll avoid bites. If you’re sitting on a deck, put a fan on pointing in your direction. It can help keep the bugs away. “Mosquitoes can’t fly in a breeze faster than 1 mile per hour.

If all that fails, do as I do….stay indoors until the weather is cooler!