Why Do Mosquitoes Really Like Some People?
Certain chemicals help them target us
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jul 5, 2014 10:31 AM CDT
The mosquito species Culex pipiens is seen.   (AP Photo/University of Wisconsin-Madison University, Gabe Hamer)

(Newser) – At your next barbecue, your friend may be slapping mosquitoes left and right, while they just aren't that into you. Don't be insulted: It may have to do with the chemicals in your skin, Jill Richardson explains at Salon. There are 346 chemicals involved in the scent of human hands, a study found in 2000, and 277 of them can attract the annoying critters. A key one seems to be l-lactic acid, which, when added to the scent of a less-targeted person, can make certain mosquitoes go after them. It's also been suggested that some people are lucky enough to carry chemicals that actually get in the way when mosquitoes are looking for lunch.

And when it comes to malarial mosquitoes—not a big problem in the US—the bacteria in foot odor is tempting. They'll even go after limburger cheese, which smells like feet, Richardson notes. As for how to deal with them, there's controversy over the use of bug repellent DEET, which Salon calls mildly neurotoxic. But Mother Jones notes that the cause of supposedly DEET-linked seizures in children in the 1980s remains unclear, and newer studies have shown little in the way of health risks from small amounts of the stuff. Still, if you want to avoid it, a recent study suggested lemon eucalyptus oil could do the trick against mosquitoes.

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Showing 3 of 37 comments
John Landau
Jul 8, 2014 9:51 AM CDT
To call Deet "mildly neurotoxic" is absurd, and very irresponsible! It either is neurotoxic or it isn't! While Mother Jones reports that studies are inconclusive, the evidence of severe reactions in children cannot and should not be ignored. There's nothing un-clear about any of this at all. What may I ask is a small amount of the "stuff"? I know everyone's physiology is different. I may have a severe neurological reaction to a drop of Deet while another may not react adversely until slathered from head to toe in the "stuff". Let's start reporting the TRUTH about these dangerous chemicals and stop down-playing their dangers. Many lives can be altered and saved simultaneously, if only people would wake up, research, and stop believing the propaganda hype of agrochemical companies.
crackalacka
Jul 6, 2014 1:25 PM CDT
"the bacteria in foot odor is tempting. They'll even go after limburger cheese, which smells like feet" So, scientific evidence it's truly disgusting... That stuff makes me gag thinking about how people willingly eat it.
Ezekiel 25:17
Jul 6, 2014 12:50 PM CDT
My bug zapper has a small attachment for a mosquito attractant. I swear when I first opened it up it smelled like a dead carcass. Its in my mud room at the back of the house. It works as I see dead mosquitoes on the floor below it. On a non-related note I don't like this model very much but it was the only one the store had. Its a silent model that does not have that zapping sound. That was half the fun.