Q: How long do mosquitoes live?
Mosquitoes are relatively fragile insects with an adult life span that typically lasts 3-6 weeks. The vast majority meets a violent end by serving as food for birds, dragonflies, and spiders; or is killed by the effects of wind, rain, or drought. Some mosquito species may persist in for as long as 5 months if environmental conditions are favorable.
Q: Are mosquitoes attracted to some people more than others?
Yes. Mosquito attraction to humans is a very complex matter. Primarily mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the breath and pores of humans. Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid, a by-product of human metabolism found in sweat. Mosquitoes are also attracted to fragrances, body heat, moisture, dark colors, and movement. During mosquito season it is recommended that people who wish to be less attractive to mosquitoes wear unscented products and light-colored clothing. Odors produced by skin microflora also play a part in inducing the mosquito to land. Over 350 compounds have been isolated from odors produced by human skin. Either singly or in combination, many of these compounds may be attractants – and many may be repellents. Visual stimuli, such as movement, also factor into host-seeking behavior by mosquitoes. Mosquito attraction is complicated and will require many years of testing before it can be completely sorted out.
What can be safely stated, though, is that ingestion of garlic, vitamin B12 and other systemics has been proven in controlled laboratory studies to have no impact on mosquito biting. Conversely, eating bananas did not attract mosquitoes as the myth suggests, but wearing perfumes does. People drinking beer have been shown to be more attractive to mosquitoes. Limburger cheese has also been found to be attractive. Scientists have theorized that this may explain the attractancy some mosquitoes find for human feet. Content Source: the American Mosquito Control Association at http://www.mosquito.org/mosquito-information/faq.aspx#13.
Another way to become less attractive to mosquitoes is to wear a commercially available, proven mosquito repellent.
Q: Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?
That’s a great question and rest assured you’re not alone. An estimated 20 percent of people, it turns out, are especially delicious for mosquitoes, and get bit more often on a consistent basis. And while scientists don’t yet have a cure for the ailment, other than preventing bites with insect repellent (which, we’ve recently discovered, some mosquitoes can become immune to over time), they do have a number of ideas regarding why some of us are more prone to bites than others. Here are some of the factors that could play a role:
Not surprisingly¬ since, after all, mosquitoes bite us to harvest proteins from our blood ¬research shows that they find certain blood types more appetizing than others. One study found that in a controlled setting, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. People with Type B blood fell somewhere in the middle of this itchy spectrum. Additionally, based on other genes, about 85 percent of people secrete a chemical signal through their skin that indicates which blood type they have, while 15 percent do not, and mosquitoes are also more attracted to secretors than non-secretors regardless of which type they are.
One of the key ways mosquitoes locate their targets is by smelling the carbon dioxide emitted in their breath¬ they use an organ called a maxillary palp to do this, and can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 164 feet away. As a result, people who simply exhale more of the gas over time¬ generally, larger people ¬have been shown to attract more mosquitoes than others. This is one of the reasons why children get bit less often than adults, on the whole.
Exercise and Metabolism
In addition to carbon dioxide, mosquitoes find victims at closer range by smelling the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other substances expelled via their sweat, and are also attracted to people with higher body temperatures. Because strenuous exercise increases the buildup of lactic acid and heat in your body, it likely makes you stand out to the insects. Meanwhile, genetic factors influence the amount of uric acid and other substances naturally emitted by each person, making some people more easily found by mosquitos than others.
Other research has suggested that the particular types and volume of bacteria that naturally live on human skin affect our attractiveness to mosquitoes. In a 2011 study, scientists found that having large amounts of a few types of bacteria made skin more appealing to mosquitoes. Surprisingly, though, having lots of bacteria but spread among a greater diversity of different species of bacteria seemed to make skin less attractive. This also might be why mosquitoes are especially prone to biting our ankles and feet¬ they naturally have more robust bacteria colonies.
Just a single 12-ounce bottle of beer can make you more attractive to the insects, one study found. But even though researchers had suspected this was because drinking increases the amount of ethanol excreted in sweat, or because it increases body temperature, neither of these factors were found to correlate with mosquito landings, making their affinity for drinkers something of a mystery.
In several different studies, pregnant women have been found to attract roughly twice as many mosquito bites as others, likely a result of the fact the unfortunate confluence of two factors: They exhale about 21 percent more carbon dioxide and are on average about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than others.
This one might seem absurd, but mosquitoes use vision (along with scent) to locate humans, so wearing colors that stand out (black, dark blue or red) may make you easier to find.
As a whole, underlying genetic factors are estimated to account for 85 percent of the variability between people in their attractiveness to mosquitoes ¬regardless of whether it’s expressed through blood type, metabolism, or other factors.
Q: Why do mosquitoes bite?
Only female mosquitoes bite. They seek blood for egg production. It serves no nourishment function. Males do not produce eggs; therefore, they do not seek blood. In order to obtain energy, both male and female mosquitoes feed upon plant nectars – much in the same manner as honeybees.
Q: Why do mosquitoes leave welts on the skin when they bite?
When the female mosquito pierces the skin for her “blood meal”, she injects a small amount of saliva into a capillary. The saliva makes penetration of her proboscis or mouthparts easier and prevents the blood from clotting. Welts or red itchy bumps that may appear after the bite of the mosquito are an allergic reaction to the saliva. Some people are more allergic to mosquito saliva than others and tend to react stronger. Some people may be more allergic to specific species of mosquitoes than other species, which is why you may react stronger to mosquitoes in one area than another. The swelling and itching may last from a few hours to a few days. Occasionally individuals may be highly sensitive to mosquito saliva and swell significantly, even to the point where they need medical attention. In any case, people should avoid scratching these welts as bacteria from the fingernails may be introduced into the wound and cause infection.
Q: What beneficial purpose do mosquitoes serve?
All species of plants and animals have their place in nature. Mosquitoes are no exception. Although no species depend solely on mosquitoes as a food source, indiscriminate predators will eat mosquito larvae and or adults if other food sources are not readily available; therefore, mosquitoes are part of a link in the food chain. During their aquatic stage, mosquito larvae provide food for other aquatic insects such as dragonfly nymphs, beetles, fish, and other water-dwelling creatures.