Well the long-awaited rain has finally arrived and with it has arrived an army of mozzies. What I’ve always found fascinating is why mozzies find some of us more attractive than others.
There’s a belief mosquitos are attracted by the amount of carbon dioxide in our breath, our body temperature, odorant markers related to our blood type, alcohol and pregnancy.
If you’re a beer drinker, consuming just 350ml of beer when you’re enjoying the lovely summer outdoors is likely to make you more attractive to mozzies. The jury is out on why this is the case however there’s some belief this may be because of the increase in body temperature and the increase in ethanol emitted in our sweat. So, if you like a beer out on the back deck in mozzie season, you could be in trouble.
Mosquitoes it seems are more likely to target their prey by smelling the carbon dioxide discharged from our breath. It seems the larger we are, the more carbon dioxide we exhale, and the more likely mosquitoes are going to be attracted to us. Interestingly, it’s believed mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide from up to 50 metres away and to detect this carbon dioxide, mosquitoes apparently use an organ known as a maxillary palp.
There has been some research (1) which has shown mosquitoes prefer certain blood types. It’s known mosquitoes will bite us to collect the proteins from our blood and one particular study conducted in a controlled setting reported those with Type O blood have hit the jackpot. If you’re a Type O blood type, according to this study you’re twice as likely to be targeted by mosquitoes than a Type A blood type. If you’re a Type B blood type your attractiveness to the mosquitoes falls in between Type O and Type A. Another fascinating piece of information is around 85% of us secrete through our skin, a chemical signal which will indicate to the mosquito what particular blood type we may be. However, 15% of us won’t secrete this chemical through our skin and are therefore the lucky ones who are less likely to attract the mosquitoes.
If you’re outside undertaking vigorous exercise, you’re also more likely to attract mosquitoes. Obviously, our body temperature is going to rise which mozzies love however it’s also because mosquitoes are more attracted to ammonia, lactic acid, uric acid and other substances which are sweated out when we exercise.
In 2011 there was a study(2) which indicated that when we have substantial amounts of bacteria of a limited type of bacteria on our skin, this made our skin more tempting to mosquitoes. We all have bacteria on our skin however it was interesting to note having masses of bacteria which covered a greater area of our skin made our skin less appealing. There is a thought that because our feet and ankles naturally have more vigorous bacteria colonies, this maybe why we are more likely find mozzies attacking those areas.
It’s also been found if we’re pregnant we’re likely to attract twice as many mozzies. This may be because when we’re pregnant we exhale 21% more carbon monoxide and our body temperature is higher than normal.
Natural Insect Repellent
When it comes to insect repellent, I’m sure we would all prefer to use something natural. My preference is a spray containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus which is the only natural ingredient recommended by the Centre of Disease Control and the World Health Organisation as a natural insect repellent. A study (3) published in the Journal of Insect Science in 2015 found plant-based sprays containing oil of lemon eucalyptus were the only DEET free formulas to deliver strong and long-lasting results. It is important to note there is a difference between oil of lemon eucalyptus and lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Due to the difference in processing, they have quite different chemical compositions and efficacy. The essential oil does not have the effectiveness of the oil of lemon eucalyptus.
When it comes to relieving the symptoms of insect bites, I’ve found a formula containing Chickweed, Calendula, Aloe Vera and Tea Tree to be very effective. Chickweed and Calendula are great for skin irritations, inflammation and itchiness. Aloe vera can also help in easing itching and swelling caused by bites and stings plus the gel contained within the leaf contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, obviously helping with bites and stings. Tea Tree is well known for its antibacterial properties plus helps by soothing and reliving skin irritations and bites.
For more information on natural mozzie protection or any other health issue call to see Bev and the team at Go Vita your health shop in 5 North St, Batemans Bay or phone on 44729737. Don’t forget to tune into Bev on Go Get Healthy on 2EC every Wednesday at 12.30pm.
(1) ncbi.nim.nih.gov JMed Entomol 2004 Jul;4(4):796-9
(3) Journal of Insect Science 2015:15(1):140 DOI:10.1093/jisesa/lev125