It’s going to be a long, hot sticky summer and with the wet weather predicted, more mosquitoes will be out for blood. But it’s not your sweet blood that attracts the bothersome insects, it’s your sweat and smell. Everything from your body odor to what you eat and drink can affect your susceptibility to mosquito misery. For example, eating garlic, thought to keep vampires away in medieval times, may also repel mosquitoes. But drinking beer attracts them.
According to Axios, Duke biology professor Ke Dong says some mosquitoes bite because they need human blood to help their eggs develop. She adds that male mosquitoes don’t bite and only a small number of females do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can spread viruses that can make you ill, and in rare cases, cause death. But most mosquitoes are nuisances, says the agency. Using an EPA-registered insect repellent containing effective ingredients such as DEET and picaridin and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants can help repel them, but some natural methods can also do the trick.
Some recent studies have found that certain chemicals your skin microbiome produces can attract mosquitoes. A study published last May in Current Biology, found that these pesky insects are attracted to selected body odors and not others. They love the scent of carbon dioxide, said the researchers, and are attracted to body heat. Another study found that mosquitos were attracted more to pregnant women who may have overall hotter body temperatures and exhale more frequently than people who are not pregnant.
Research has also shown that drinking beer significantly increases the percentage of mosquito attraction. But Dong’s research found that eating garlic helps keep them at bay. One of his colleagues was trying to get the insects to land on his hand, but they wouldn’t cooperate.
“His experiments were not working because he was eating a lot of Italian food with a lot of garlic,” Dong said, according to Insider. While there isn’t any conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of garlic as an insect repellent, a news release from Colorado State University said that in a field study in India, a mixture of garlic oil, petroleum jelly and beeswax rubbed on the arms and legs of study subjects was found to prevent mosquito bites for up to eight hours. The scientists theorized that the sulfur compounds in garlic are effective insect repellents.
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