Jason Pitts, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, studies “host seeking”—how mosquitoes find their next blood meal. He said odor is a major factor why mosquitoes bite some people more often.
Female mosquitoes, which bite because they need blood for reproduction, have the ability to smell odor over long distances.
“Females are able to track upwind.” Once they get that stream of odor, they fly in and out of the stream of odor to orient themselves to try get to the host.”
It is not just odor. Heat—at very close range—also is very attractive for female mosquitoes.
“Mosquitoes are exquisitely sensitive to differences in temperature on surfaces. When it comes to heat or carbon dioxide, both can be beacons for mosquitoes as well,” Pitts said.
Lastly, researchers have found that in addition to odor and heat, mosquitoes can use the sense of taste to decide whether to feed.
“Once a mosquito lands on (your) skin, they taste the skin to decide whether this is a good host or not,” Pitts said. “They can actually taste DEET, which is long-range repellent. They can smell it and avoid it. When they taste it, they will also fly away. Therefore, we know that taste is also important in some ways. Taste is the final choice before blood feeding.”
Whether you are a favorite food among mosquitoes or not, Pitts recommends these three tips for minimizing your chances of being bitten.
1. Reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
The most important thing that anyone can do is to reduce breeding sources for mosquitoes by eliminating stagnant water near your home and from your yard.
2. Stick with DEET
Bracelets, bands and other wearable devices that emit repellent compounds, such as citronella, lemongrass oil or eucalyptus, probably do reduce some mosquito bites. However, Pitts said these devices don’t provide absolute protection against bites. Topical repellents, he said, are still the best. They cover your skin and will not only have a volatile repellent effect, but if a mosquito lands on a person’s skin, it will not bite.
3. Avoid peak biting times.
Typically, mosquitoes bite at dusk and at dawn. Mosquitoes are most active when the sun is rising or setting. If you like to take a morning run or walk at dusk, you should apply DEET repellant to avoid being bitten.
Source: The Outdoor Wire