Why Do Mosquitoes Love Me So Much?

August 17, 2020

Did you know there are more than 200 types of mosquitoes in the continental United States and US territories?  Of these, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states about 12 types spread germs that can make people sick.

Mosquitoes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, they're likely to get comfortable, especially if you're not taking action to deter them.

“Mosquitoes and other insects will stay active even as the temperature drops and it will continue to stay that way until we have our first freeze of the year,” said Mercy's Dr. John Brown.

So what makes someone more attractive to mosquitoes?

What Mosquitoes Love

  • Heat – If you're moving a lot or generating heat, you're naturally heating up your blood at the same time. Mosquitoes are drawn to warmth, and also to body sweat (they love moisture).
  • Standing Water – Look for any spots in your yard that could hold water after a rain shower (bird baths, gutters, etc.). Mosquitoes love water.
  • Alcohol – Research shows people who drink are more likely to be pinpointed by mosquitoes. You guessed it: alcohol causes your body to get warmer. 
  • Carbon Dioxide – You have to exhale, no matter where you are. The chemicals in your breath will drive mosquitoes to you.
  • Plants, Flowers and Grass – Big plants and tall grass give mosquitoes shelter during sweltering days, only to resurface at night to prey. Plans and flowers have certain sweet smells and nectar that also attract them, so you might consider doing some landscaping or pruning.

They Care What You Wear

  • Color of Clothes – Warmer months usually call for brighter colored clothing, and this trend can help to save you from getting bitten by mosquitoes. Dr. Brown shared that there is some truth to the saying that darker colored clothing can attract mosquitoes. “One of the best options is to be conscious of color you're wearing. Mosquitoes are looking for darker colors because that tends to be the color of animals they’re preying on,” explained Dr. Brown.
  • Avoid DEET-free products – Products advertising as “DEET-free” have been hitting the shelves, and while they may protect you from some mosquitoes, it won’t protect you from every variation. Many people choose DEET-free products because traditionally, products containing DEET have a strong odor and can be oily in consistency. To cover all your bases against these pests, DEET is a great way to protect yourself.
  • Dusk 'til Dawn – Keep in mind when planning outdoor activities that mosquitoes are most active from dusk until dawn. Even as the temperatures cool off outside, mosquitoes will continue to be pests throughout most of the fall.

Safe Repellant Options

  • Products with DEET – Products that have DEET as an ingredient stand as one of the best repellent options on the market to protect people from mosquitoes and ticks alike. This repellent is best if used on the skin and it has been deemed safe for regular usage by many medical organizations. Dr. Brown mentioned that if using DEET, be cautious of spraying it on synthetic or plastic materials because it can breakdown paint.
  • Permethrin – Another strong insect repellent strategy is to use permethrin spray on clothing and other outdoor materials. If you know you’ll be outdoors doing an activity like hiking or camping, spraying your clothing or equipment with permethrin can create a force field of sorts to ward off insects. Pretreating your clothes with this repellent will protect you even in after several washes.
  • Products with Picaridin – Products containing picaridin will help to protect you against mosquitoes, ticks, and flies. Dr. Brown shared that products containing this ingredient are safe to use on your skin, clothes, and other materials. Picaridin will give you protection like DEET, but with less of an odor. This is a strong contender for bug repellent if you’re on-the-go and looking for quick protection from insects.

How to Spray for Mosquitoes and Ticks

John Brown, MD, demonstrates how to arm yourself before heading outdoors.