It’s summertime, and I can’t wait to open my windows wide to let my little adorable flying friends in…said no one ever about mosquitoes! I guess it’s because no one likes to wake up to their squeaking or find nasty scratches as souvenirs the next morning.
In fact, it’s not just the annoying itching that mosquitoes leave behind. Their bites can impose a serious risk to your health since they carry various diseases. Malaria is the most well-known, and it kills people around the world.
Other dangerous infections they carry around are West Nile virus (which has symptoms similar to flu but can seriously affect your nervous system), Zika virus (which causes fever, joint pain, and rash), Yellow fever, and Dengue fever (which can be deadly).
While all this sounds pretty scary, it doesn’t mean you have to build a glass dome around yourself and avoid any contact with nature. Not every mosquito bite can cause agonizing pain and disaster. However, sometimes when it gets a bit too intense, it leaves you wondering — what if they sucked all of my blood out of me? Is that physically possible? Let’s see.
First of all, did you know that only female mosquitoes can bite you? They need blood as their source of protein and main course to develop their eggs. It won’t sound like much of a consolation, I guess, but your blood isn’t their only type of meal. They also consume animal blood and various sugars.
Simply put, if female mosquitoes stop drinking blood, they won’t be able to reproduce. As for the males, they use flower nectar as their main source of nutrients, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Even one encounter with a female mosquito and its consequences might seem like a total disaster to you, but they don’t actually eat that much. 3 milligrams or 5 millionths of a liter of your blood is what’s in one serving for them. That amount sounds like really close to nothing, but that is basically 2 or 3 times their body weight.
An average adult human has about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood running through their body. With some math, it becomes clear that it would take around 1,000,000 mosquitoes to deprive you of blood altogether. That sounds like a good plot for a horror movie, but it’s really unlikely to ever happen in real life.
A female mosquito has receptors that release chemicals, thanks to which it knows when to stop a meal and thank the cook. Once it’s had enough, the future mom will find a safe place to process the food. This process takes a few hours, and then once the eggs have been laid, it’s time to set off to hunt again.
When they go on a hunt, it seems like there’s something that’s guiding them, and there’s some kind of logic behind whom they pick as victims. I think we all have that one friend who seems to be a true mosquito magnet and gets all the unwanted attention and bites.
Scientists have long been wondering what the secret is here. In 2003, a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, tried to identify the risk factors of getting attacked by these little bloodsuckers. They found out that female mosquitoes have around 72 types of odor receptors on their antennae. 27 of those receptors help them recognize various chemicals in human sweat.
In this way, they learn which human will be a better feeding ground. Every human has around a trillion microbes living on their skin. And you’ll love this if you strive to be the one and only at everything…your collection of microbes is so unique that you only share around 10% of them with other people. These microbes are responsible for your body odor.
What mosquitoes fall for is high amounts of octenol and carbon dioxide in your microbe collection. The second thing they love about you is CO2 and lactic acid. Both work as mosquito attractants, and the more carbon dioxide a person emits, the better.
Larger people emit larger amounts of CO2, so adults are more popular with mosquitoes than kids. And larger adults are their number one goal!
Finally, the little flying vampires are attracted to movement and heat. So don’t be surprised the next time you’re playing Frisbee in your backyard on a hot summer day and the mosquitoes want to join in! Anyone who’s ever been bitten by a mosquito — so basically everyone! — knows that itching sensation and the red bumps with dots in the middle they leave behind.
Here’s what you should do if that happens to you:
- To ease your suffering and reduce the irritation, it’s important to resist scratching your battle wound so as not to infect it. Instead, gently wash it with soap and water without bursting it. An ice pack will help reduce swelling and pain. A paste of baking soda is a natural and effective option to stop the itchiness. If nothing helps, go for oral antihistamines.
However, just like with any disease, it’s always better to prevent mosquito bites than to treat them, so here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from unwanted insect attention:
- Wear tightly woven clothes in light colors. I know a flowing shirt or dress seem like the ultimate summer choice to let your skin breathe and everything. Sadly, they don’t only give you joy but also open the door to mosquitoes to penetrate and eat some of your precious blood.
- Long sleeves and pants will add extra protection as well. And guess which colors mosquitoes like most of all? Dark shades because they make you stand out in a naturally light setting, making you easy prey to pick out.
- Wear something light to make things trickier for them.
- Try oil of lemon eucalyptus spray. In 2017, a group of scientists in Kenya (who were obviously concerned with mosquito bites themselves) did some research on the effects of lemon eucalyptus spray on those flying vampires.
All jokes aside, mosquitoes do present a serious threat in Africa since they transmit deadly diseases. It turned out that oil of lemon eucalyptus spray is just as effective as DEET at protecting your skin from mosquito bites.
- Keep your pools clean and your grass shredded. Have you ever covered yourself with repellent head to toe as you relax by the pool in your backyard only to find an army of mosquitoes knocking at your invisible door? Well, it’s not about the repellent, so it must be something in the water! Mosquitoes like to breed in stagnant water. It could be a pond, a pool, or any other piece of landscape design you forget to clean regularly. So give it a wash out to get rid of any possible laid eggs. Replace standing water once a week, and treat it with mosquito dunks.
- The same works for your lawn. Keep the grass shredded to deprive unwanted guests from a perfect gathering spot.
- Grow some natural protectors. Use the power of herbs and flowers that’s been known for centuries. Lemongrass, geranium, eucalyptus, rosemary, basil, lavender, and mint (to name a few!) not only look good but will also help you arrange mosquito-free zones. Plant a few of them in your garden, and keep them as potted plants inside.
- Dry the herbs, and run your fingers through them whenever you plan to go outside. You can also use their power as essential oils by adding a few drops to some old cotton cloth. As you throw it in the dryer with your laundry, it will share its aroma and stay with you as you go outside.
Use the secret weapon.
Here comes the big shocker! It turns out that your favorite perfume can help repel the little bloodsuckers. In 2016, researchers at New Mexico State University tested 10 perfumes to see if they were any good at mosquito protection.
The Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito that took part in the experiment showed a strong aversion toward Victoria’s Secret Bombshell. What it was exactly that they hated so much about the sugary, fruity odor remains a mystery, but a fact remains a fact — it did scare away mosquitoes.
Do you know of any other ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes? Share your secret remedies in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends, and click subscribe to our newsletter on Buzz Pro.
Thanks for reading.