Summer is in full swing, and that means that those pesky mosquitos are on the hunt. Sometimes it seems as if mosquitos feast even more than we do during summer gatherings after dark, since they are drawn to the smells of a typical barbecue. Sure, we have the grilled burgers, peach cobbler, and tasty frozen margaritas to enjoy, but they have an all-you-can-eat buffet: us.
These irritating creatures come to get us when we least expect it, like when the sun is setting and the party is winding down or turning up. Their bites initially are imperceptible, especially while we are indulging in a cocktail or sweet fruit salad. But all of a sudden, you know you’ve been bitten — a red welt rises on your ankle and it’s all you can do to resist a scratching frenzy. Not only can they be party pests, mosquitos can also be carriers of diseases like malaria, dengue fever and West Nile virus.
There are a variety of reasons that certain people are far more attractive to mosquitos than others. These biting insects have an acute sense of smell, but they also rely on carbon dioxide signatures — that means they tend to flock to larger people or pregnant women. Genetics is also important. Studies have shown that mosquitos prefer those with type O blood. Body heat, movement or exercise, and sweat also draw them to certain bodies. Dark colors and fragrances can also bring mosquitos your way.
Diet is a factor as well. Some of the foods we eat, like the avocadoes atop your summer salad and pickle relish on your brat, make us much tastier to mosquitos, while others like strong onions and garlic repel them. The critters can smell salty snacks, sumptuous sweets, and other goodies on our skin, making us much more delicious to them.
What’s a cookout without a cold one (or two)? There’s always a cooler full to the brim with ice-cold beers at backyard barbeques. A few Heinekens can give you a buzz, but even a single beer can make you a target for mosquitos. Scientists are not exactly sure why mosquitos go for beer drinkers, but they don’t think it has anything to do with the increase in ethanol in the bloodstream or the heightened body temperature caused by beer consumption. Like us humans, mosquitos may just like the taste of a good brew.
Bloodsucking mosquitos are extremely attracted to lactic acid. Too bad lactic acid is constantly naturally released by our bodies, making us prime snacks. Eating potassium-rich foods, however, increases the amount of lactic acid you give off through your skin. Bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins, lima beans, avocadoes, and spinach are full of potassium, so snacking on these makes you even tastier to the invasive insects. Well, there goes guacamole!
This post was originally published on July 3, 2014.