According to an article published in the Environment and Science section of today’s BBC, mosquitoes are attracted to humans by smell, heat, and sight. As it turns out, they first detect the scent of C02 (such as that contained in human breath), then hone in on the smell to detect heat, visualize a target, and then feed on the blood. The report states:

[“Biologists recorded the movement of hungry mosquitoes inside a wind tunnel. The insects were instantly attracted to a plume of CO2, much like a human breath; after sniffing this gas, they would also home in on a black spot. Finally, over much shorter distances, the mosquitoes were also drawn towards warmth. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, build on previous evidence that smell is crucial for mosquitoes to pinpoint their next meal. Body odor, for example, may play a role in how they choose one victim over another. But mosquitoes are particularly good at sniffing out CO2 (carbon dioxide), which is highly concentrated in the breath of the animals whose blood they feed on – like humans. Mosquitoes can home in on stale, exhaled air from up to 50 m away.”]

The studies regarding odor generally involved drawing distinctions between the reaction of mosquitoes to the genetic profile of identical twins as compared to others, with the idea being that mosquitoes should not differentiate (or prefer) one over the other because their odors are the same- they did not- so it is believed that odor plays a factor.

Private companies engaged in the mosquitoes repellent business continues, however, the emphasis has started to focus on the Carbon dioxide component. One such new compound  “works by confusing a mosquito’s senses, hindering its ability to target is based on the carbon dioxide  we exhale and confounding its capacity to locate us up close” according to the NY Times.

In states where the presence of mosquitoes is exceptionally high, such as Minnesota in the summertime, people are actually given suggestions on how to cope with the pests. Minnesota NPR suggests:

*Wear a repellent containing DEET. Wear light-colored clothes, and cover as much skin as possible.
* Avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
* Don’t allow water to collect in containers and other receptacles near your home (buckets, tires, etc.) since that’s      where some mosquitoes may like to lay eggs.”]

Regardless of the color of your clothes, and the potency of the body odors you may emit, it is the CO2 in your breath that initially attracts the insects- it may be relevant to hang out with people that talk more than you.

Leave a Reply