As the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association found in , the likelihood of being bitten by a mosquito appears to be dramatically increased if you drink alcohol. The study — a small one, involving only 13 subjects — showed those who had drunk a bottle of beer were more likely to have mosquitoes land on them to feed.
Exactly why mosquitoes appear to be more attracted to drinkers, no-one is quite sure. We do know mosquitoes home onto humans thanks to two chemicals we exhale when we breathe: carbon dioxide and octanol. But this leads to another question: do mosquitoes that feed on inebriated humans get drunk themselves? It is, despite the sheer number of mosquitoes who have fed on drunk humans over millennia, the subject of relatively little research.
The ethanol that we excrete when we drink alcohol may help attract mosquitoes, research suggests Credit: Getty Images. In a recent article on Popular Science, entomologist Coby Schal, from North Carolina State University, pointed out that a human who had knocked back 10 drinks might have a blood alcohol level of 0. Evolution might have given the mosquito some extra help, too.
Who Mosquitoes Are Attracted To?
Any liquid other than blood is diverted first to a separate digestive pouch where enzymes break it down. These tiny insects have a powerful taste for alcohol-laden rotting fruit. Insects can be remarkably resilient to the effects of alcohol Credit: Getty Images. In smaller doses they get very hyperactive — and flirty. And they get less choosy about their partners as well.
Mosquitoes are also partial to rotting fruit, which creates alcohol as the sugars it contains ferment. Only the females feed on blood in order to get the protein needed to create eggs. Males and females also feed on nectar produced by flowers — mosquitoes are key pollinators — and use the sugar it contains to give them energy to survive. This nectar can also sometimes ferment into small amounts of alcohol.
Some people have a genetic make-up that makes them more attractive to mosquitoes. One of those is blood type; in one study, those with Type O blood were twice as likely to be bitten as those with Type A blood. Almost all cases of malaria in the United States are in people who traveled to other countries.
In those that do have symptoms, they are usually mild, and include fever, headache, and nausea. In rare cases, the virus can enter the brain, and it can be life-threatening. WNV has spread across the continental United States. Zika Virus , a viral infection that often does not cause symptoms. One in five infected people do get symptoms, which are usually mild.
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They include a fever, rash, joint pain, and pinkeye. Besides being spread by mosquitoes, Zika can spread from mother to baby during pregnancy and cause serious birth defects. It can also spread from one partner to another during sex. There have been a few outbreaks of Zika in the southern United States. Can mosquito bites be prevented?
Why mosquitoes are attracted to humans
Use an insect repellent when you go outdoors. They are evaluated to make sure they are safe and effective. Make sure that the repellant has one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol. It is important to follow the instructions on the label.
An Environmentally Friendly Solution
Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors. Mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric, so spray thin clothes with an EPA-registered repellent like permethrin. Don't apply permethrin directly to skin. Mosquito-proof your home. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
Use air conditioning if you have it. Get rid of mosquito breeding sites. Regularly empty standing water from your house and yard. The water could be in flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, or birdbaths. If you plan to travel, get information about the areas you will be going to.
Why Are Mosquitoes Attracted to You?
Find out whether there is a risk of diseases from mosquitoes, and if so, whether there is a vaccine or medicine to prevent those diseases. See a health care provider familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Learn More. A Mosquito Bit Me!
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Statistics and Research. Article: Some considerable issues concerning malaria elimination in India. Article: Are malaria elimination efforts on right track? An analysis of gains Article: Alternative strategies for mosquito-borne arbovirus control. Mosquito Bites -- see more articles.