Mosquitoes are attracted to a number of chemical compounds that they can detect from an impressive 50 yards away. The males are not interested in your blood, but the females are a different story, thirsting after the protein and iron in your blood to produce their eggs.
At this point in our scientific knowledge base, we know that mosquitoes are attracted to the following:
•Bacteria: One trillion microbes live on your skin and create your body odor. Humans have only about 10 percent of these microbes in common—the rest vary between individuals. Some of us have a collection of microbes that are particularly irresistible to mosquitoes.
•Chemical compounds: When they are sniffing us out, mosquitoes home in on a wide variety of chemicals—277 were isolated as potential mosquito attractants from human hand odors in one 2000 study.2
Some of their favorites are lactic acid, ammonia, carboxylic acid, and octenol (present in human breath and sweat). Mosquitoes are especially drawn to carbon dioxide.
The more you emit, the more attractive you are to them. Larger people naturally emit more carbon dioxide than smaller people, which is one of the reasons adults seem to be bitten more often than children.
•Movement and heat: Mosquitoes are drawn to both movement and heat. So if you’re exercising outside on a warm summer evening, you’re the perfect target—especially if you’re short of breath!
Mosquitoes Like OLD Sweat, Not Fresh Sweat
It was once believed that mosquitoes were attracted to human sweat, but science has disproven that the sweat itself attracts them. Instead, they are drawn by the chemical changes produced by bacteria in your sweat.3, 4
Sweat itself is odorless until bacteria act upon it. Although mosquitoes are not attracted to fresh sweat, if you offer them up some “fermented sweat,” they’ll be all over you.
A 1999 study5 found that human sweat was attractive to malarial mosquitoes after one to two days of incubation. During this time, bacteria in the sweat multiplied, which changed its pH from acidic to alkaline as sweat components decomposed into ammonia.
They also found that malarial mosquitoes flock to foot odor—they will even bite a pair of smelly socks if you hang them up after wearing them for a few days.
Not only do mosquitoes find some odors irresistible, but others have been found to impair their ability to find their hosts—and some of these compounds are secreted by your body. One of these compounds is 1-methylpiperzine, which blocks mosquitoes’ sense of smell so effectively that they are rendered oblivious to the presence of a juicy human hand nearby.6
Insect sprays containing 1-methylpiperzine are in the works, but thus far scientists have not been able to determine how to keep the substance from evaporating off your skin, as naturally occurs over time.
Plants Hold the Key to Repelling Mosquitoes Safely
Fortunately, there are highly effective mosquito repellents on the market comprising natural botanical oils and extracts that are every bit as effective as DEET, but with none of the potentially harmful effects. You can also make your own repellent using:
- Cinnamon leaf oil (one study found it was more effective at killing mosquitoes than DEET)
- Clear vanilla oil14 mixed with olive oil
- Wash with citronella soap, and then put some 100 percent pure citronella essential oil on your skin. Java Citronella is considered the highest quality citronella on the market
- Catnip oil (according to one study, this oil is 10 times more effective than DEET)15
- Lemon eucalyptus was found very effective in a 2014 Australian study;16 a mixture of 32 percent lemon eucalyptus oil provided more than 95 percent protection for three hours, compared to a 40 percent DEET repellent that gave 100 percent protection for seven hours
Use a natural formula that contains a combination of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil and vanillin to repel mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, ticks, and other biting insects,which is recommended in a June 2014 article on AlterNet.17.
Extra Thiamine May Make Mosquitoes Think You Stink
A study back in the 1960s indicated that taking vitamin B1 (thiamine) may be effective in discouraging mosquitoes from biting. However, studies since then have been inconclusive.18 The theory is, taking more vitamin B1 than your body requires causes the excess to be excreted through your urine, skin, and sweat. Vitamin B1 produces a skin odor that female mosquitoes seem to find offensive.
This vitamin is water-soluble, and there is no danger of toxicity—even at high doses—so it is a safe measure to try. Dr. Janet Starr Hull recommends taking one vitamin B1 tablet a day from April through October, and then adding 100 mg of B1 to a B100 Complex daily during the mosquito season to make you less attractive to mosquitoes. You may also want to forgo bananas during mosquito season, as something about how they are metabolized appears attract mosquitoes. Research also suggests that regularly consuming garlic or garlic capsules may help protect against both mosquito and tick bites.
Treating Bites and Stings with Herbs and Natural Agents
Once you’ve been bitten, the objective changes from repelling to treating the itch and inflammation caused by the bite. Fortunately, a variety of herbs and other natural agents are soothing to the skin, and many have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. So, for your occasional mosquito bites, try some of the following:
|Aloe Vera: Contains more than 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that are beneficial to your skin||Calendula: An herb with soothing, moisturizing, and rejuvenating properties||Chamomile: The most soothing herb of all, whether used in a tea or applied to the skin; rich in the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin|
|Cinnamon: In addition to possibly repelling mosquitoes, cinnamon has antibacterial and antifungal properties||Cucumbers: Helpful for reducing swelling||Raw organic honey: An especially powerful variety is Manuka honey from New Zealand, made from bees that feed on flowers of the Manuka bush, also known as the “Tea Tree”|
|Lavender: One of the most popularessential oils for its calming scent, lavender is soothing and antimicrobial||Neem oil: Effective against fungal conditions, boils, eczema, and ringworm, and it would undoubtedly help an insect bite as well||Tea Tree oil: Helpful for healing cuts, burns, infections, and a multitude of other skin afflictions; also a good antimicrobial and antifungal|
|Basil: Contains camphor and thymol, two compounds that can relieve itching; crush up some fresh herb and apply directly to the bite, or buy the essential oil||Lemon and lime: Both have anti-itch, antibacterial, and antimicrobial actions; avoid applying citrus juices to your skin when outdoors, however, as blistering can occur when exposed to sunlight||Peppermint: The cooling sensation can block other sensations, such as itching, and provide temporary relief; either crushed fresh leaves or the essential oil will do|
|Jewelweed: A wildflower that grows throughout in the Eastern US, helpful for reducing itching from many types of skin ailments, including poison oak and ivy19, 20||Tea bags: Swiping a cooled tea bag over your bites can help, as the tannins in the tea act as an astringent, to reduce swelling||Apple cider vinegar: Add two to three cups to your bath and soak for 30 minutes; the acidity helps relieve itching|
|Baking soda: Dissolve in your bath and soak for 30 minutes||Witch hazel: Make a paste out of witch hazel and baking soda, and apply directly to your bite to reduce swelling|
Hot or Cold Therapies Can Take the Sting Out of a Bug Bite
You can also use either ice or heat to ease the discomfort from bug bites. An article in Scientific American21 recommends using a simple ice pack to treat painful insect bites in lieu of analgesics. According to an article published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin,22 there is little evidence supporting the efficacy of commercial preparations for insect bites, including antihistamines and topical corticosteroids. The authors conclude that the best course of action for mild local reactions is to simply clean the area and apply a cold compress.
Read the full article at Mercola