Do you always seem to be the one getting devoured by mosquitoes when your friends are simply having a great time outdoors? Well, there might be a good reason why these bloodsuckers are after you.
The Greatest Risks
Makers of the Mosquito Magnet have a comprehensive answer to the question, “When Are Mosquitoes Most Active?”
“For most species of mosquito in the United States,” the biting insect trap manufacturers explain, “their activity peaks during the dusk hours. If you step outside during the evenings, especially in wooded, shady areas near standing water or bogs, you will want to have extra protection on hand to protect yourself from insect bites.”
We’ll get to protection a little later.
On the upside, when you’re most miserable in the midday sun, at least you’re not as likely to get bit. “All types of mosquitoes are least likely to bite during the middle part of the day when the sun and heat are at their peak.”
Mosquitoes become active any time after the temperature is regularly above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning spring through fall in most parts of the U.S. The little suckers are particularly active in the summer months when the average temperature is above 80 degrees.
“Damp areas or areas near farming operations, bogs, salt marshes, standing water or dredge spoil are more likely to have larger mosquito populations than drier areas,” explains Mosquito Magnet. “Similarly, even if you avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active, you may still be bitten during a walk near a pond, ditch or other areas that provide a safe haven for mosquitoes.”
Mosquitoes may find you anyway.
Web MD’s Elizabeth Heubeck took a look at why some people seem to attract more mosquito bites than others.
Heubeck interviews Jerry Butler, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Florida, who explains that, “People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes.” It’s not necessarily the consumption of cholesterol, but how an individual’s body processes the cholesterol, “the byproducts of which,” Heubeck summarizes for the professor, “remain on the skin’s surface.”
“Mosquitoes also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid, explains entomologist John Edman, Ph.D., spokesman for the Entomological Society of America,” writes Heubeck. “These substances can trigger mosquitoes’ sense of smell, luring them to land on unsuspecting victims.”
It’s that sense of smell that makes the mosquitoes dangerous. These flying blood banks can smell their prey from over 100 feet away
“Any type of carbon dioxide is attractive, even over a long distance,” Joe Conlon, Ph.D. and technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association tells Heubeck.
This is one motivation to keep your cardio activity up during the winter so that you’re breathing efficiently when the mosquitoes come out.
“Larger people tend to give off more carbon dioxide, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults to small children,” points out the Web MD author. “Pregnant women are also at increased risk, as they produce a greater-than-normal amount of exhaled carbon dioxide. Movement and heat also attract mosquitoes.”
So be mindful of that physical activity in the summer. “When you pant from exertion,” writes Heubeck, “the smell of carbon dioxide from your heavy breathing draws them closer. So does the lactic acid from your sweat glands.”
How can you protect yourself from mosquitoes?
If you’re open to synthetic chemicals helping to protect your from these dangerous insects, Consumer Reports says that Picaridin and Deet are safe and effective at warding off mosquitoes, giving an edge to the efficacy of Deet.
If you prefer a natural alternative, the same report suggests looking for products including Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
There’s armor against mosquitoes now, too. You can purchase clothing that is infused with a special chemical called permethrin, which kills bugs as they attempt to penetrate your skin.
Finally, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Mosquitoes can breed in as little water as a soda-bottle cap. Don’t leave standing water in your yard or neighborhood!
Good luck in your fight against these bad bugs.