If you’ve ever felt personally victimised by mosquitoes, please raise your hand. Safe to say, you wouldn’t be the only one. Mozzies seem to be a picky bunch, and the most unfortunate of us form their choice of meal. But why is this? Is there any salvation for those damned to an eternity of itchy bumps?
There are several reasons why mosquitoes decide to bite a person. For starters, the mosquito has to be a female. Surprisingly, male mosquitoes are peace loving hippies that feed of the nectar of flowers.
Females, however, have precious eggs to develop that need more nutrients than the flowers can provide, so they must look for more gruesome solutions. That’s where we come in.
Using her needle like face, the mosquito pierces the skin of her victim until she finds a capillary to suck from. To avoid choking of coagulated blood, she also releases saliva at the same time. That’s right, just in case the spread of disease and itchy bites wasn’t bad enough, this happens because the mosquito spits into you.
This doesn’t explain why mosquitoes bite you though. Most of it comes down to smell. Showering is not only important for cleanliness, it may also save you from a viscous mozzie attack. That’s because these little devils are attracted to chemicals produced by both your sweat glands, and the host of bacteria on your skin. This is where the diversity comes from. While humans share 99.9% of their genetic makeup, the range of bacteria on their skin and in their bodies may be completely different. It’s this bacteria which is some peoples’ saving grace and others’ downfall. The different species of bacteria release different chemicals that can be picked up by mosquitoes. Some bacteria produce a chemical called 1-methylpiperazine (try to say that five times fast) which makes the human host invisible to mozzies by blocking their sense of smell.
There is also a list of risk factors that make you more likely to seem like a tasty treat. These include people that breathe more (mozzies are attracted to carbon dioxide), people with O type blood, people exercising (not only do they breathe more, they also produce more heat and movement). I’m sad to say that mosquitoes also love people who drink beer. We’re not sure why mozzies like beer drinkers more than normal people, but they have shown preference in trials to those consuming alcohol over those who aren’t.
So next time you reach for a beer on the shelf, it might pay to also reach for the mozzie repellent at the same time, and if you’re ever feeling unusually attacked by mosquitoes it might be time to consider a shower.
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