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Science

Why Are Some People Mosquito Magnets? 183

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-I'm-highly-alluring-to-somebody dept.
First time accepted submitter CherryLongman writes "If you feel as if every mosquito in a 50-mile radius has you locked in its sights, while your friends are rarely bitten, you could be right. Up to 20 percent of us are highly alluring to mosquitoes — and scientists have discovered some surprising reasons."
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Why Are Some People Mosquito Magnets?

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  • by Rosyna (80334) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:50AM (#44296149) Homepage

    I'm guessing these people contain the sweetest of the red juice.

  • by Xicor (2738029)
    mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide... im guessing some ppl exhale more/more often than others
    • So some dry ice should not only keep you cool during summer nights but also mosquito free?

      • I have a Mosquito Magnet [mosquitomagnet.com] out in my yard running on propane that emits CO2 and heat. I empty hundreds of mosquitoes out of the thing every week. It has another chemical attractant, but I rarely replace that, because the thing is effective without it.

        Wouldn't the CO2 from dry ice just sink to the ground? CO2 is heavier than air at STP, and cold CO2 would just be worse.

    • Yes they do.

      If you are running, or exerting more energy you will exhale more often than other people who may not be exerting the energy.

      Not every person has the same C02 per action. Some people are more efficient and others are less.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:57AM (#44296233)

    You can ask any number of my former girlfriends--if you can keep them from stabbing you, setting fire to your house, or trying to poison your dog long enough to ask.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @09:59AM (#44296269)

    I keep Mosquitos away with the help of a good HOSTS file! The fastest and best way to secure yourself from external pests!

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:00AM (#44296277) Journal

    Yahoo Health? Are you joking?

    • Would you prefer a paywalled version of the article instead?

  • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:00AM (#44296283)

    One dumb lab tech sits in his underwear in his lab and reports the results?

  • by hoboroadie (1726896) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:02AM (#44296307)

    I start getting bitten within seconds of entering a house with fleas. Same as mosquitos, I often have trouble convincing others that there is an infestation. Good to see the scientists confirming my observations. Again.

    • by cusco (717999)
      Fleas would preferentially leave our beagle to go attack my wife. Now we have hairless dogs, which seem to be as immune to fleas as I am. As long as she wears long pants when we go to the dog park and they get tossed in the dryer as soon as we get home she's fine. Hairless dogs don't shed either, another plus.
  • I always thought of inventing a mosquito trap using some sort of machine. It should have a device that will emit the attractant chemicals, sweat/co2/stinky cheese chem/etc, using a mild heater. It will have a tube through which the mosquitoes will approach the source. There will be a small chamber to hold the trapped mosquitoes, which will be a lower pressure than atmosphere. When the mosquito passes through the tube, a trap door will open, sucking the mosquito into the negative pressure chamber. Never got
    • by c (8461)

      I always thought of inventing a mosquito trap using some sort of machine.

      It's been done. [mosquitomagnet.com]

      They do work pretty well, covering approx a 1/2 acre area without too much trouble.

      • by _anomaly_ (127254)

        I'd doubt anyone who's commenting on this article hasn't heard of them, but the Parent does sound like they may be living under a rock.

        I'd be interested in a do-it-yourself version, as those that exist for purchase are outrageously expensive IMO.

        I've also always been a mosquito magnet. I just came back from a trip to the Boundary Waters up in Minneosta and let me tell you, if you are one of the unfortunate 20%, be prepared with 40% DEET spray, a head net, and long-sleeve shirts and pants. Otherwise you

        • I did not know USA is under a rock, because that is where I am living and said so too. ;-)

          Some background about my "invention". Back in 1983 I was practicing for my GRE using Barron's guide. There one of the reading comprehension passages were about how mosquitoes find their hosts. About vapor trails and C02 trails and temperature sensitivities etc. That passage triggered a train of thought and was mulling over designing a mosquito trap as a B Tech project. But went with a much more prosaic wind mill. Did

          • by _anomaly_ (127254)
            Haha, well, without any mention of the traps commercially available, and with your description being very close, I'd still say it was a reasonable conclusion ;-)
        • by c (8461)

          I just came back from a trip to the Boundary Waters up in Minneosta and let me tell you, if you are one of the unfortunate 20%, be prepared with 40% DEET spray, a head net, and long-sleeve shirts and pants. Otherwise you're miserable up there.

          I grew up in northern Ontario. I'm not sure we have any of the 20% left in the gene pool anymore. About the only good thing I can say about the mosquitos are that they don't carry the diseases they have in the tropics.

          • I've tried Northern mosquitoes but they're nothing compared to the Everglades. Mosquitoes never bite me - except there! Remember to bring repellant. They only sell it at the end of the road you travel (basically a dead end), and by the time you get there you'll happily exchange your first born child and all your future earnings for a bottle.

      • by nblender (741424)

        If you can keep them working. I bought one used because the PO couldn't keep it working. I dismantled it, cleaned the chamber and catalytic converter and got it to work again. It worked for a few weeks and then was reporting a flame error... Took it apart again and just could not get it to work. The air intake port was clean, fan running, but just could not get the mix good enough to get it to ignite; even manually... took the nozzle out and it lit fine; just wouldn't light in the chamber.. After a few w

        • Bring it inside for several hours, then keep it in while it starts. Where I live, the weather can be highly variable. I've found that a cold, rainy day can cause an error, even if it's already running. Getting it to start on any day not sunny and warm is an effort in futility, unless I bring it inside.
      • by mi (197448)

        They do work pretty well, covering approx a 1/2 acre area without too much trouble.

        I dunno... We got one six weeks ago and have mixed feelings. On one hand, the dead mosquitoes certainly do accumulate inside the trap. On the other, there are still plenty of suckers outside in the air. Tried changing the chemical attractant — we are right on the border of their "map" for deciding, which attractant to use — and things improved a little, but we still get plenty of bites.

        Maybe, I should get a seco

        • I've found that the bigger benefit comes the second year. The area I'm in is suffering a particularly bad onslaught this year because of an unusual spring, and a wet previous summer. While they are fairly bad at my house (I'm on ~9 acres, with ~1 cleared,) I've still found them livable. Last summer was the second year I had the magnet, and was absolutely delighted with how free I was from mosquitoes.
    • by DeathToBill (601486) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:09AM (#44296397) Journal

      Found a better solution, emigrated to the USA ;-)

      I'm not clear. Does this help because the USA has no mosquitoes? Or because you can now use assault weapons on them?

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)

      Nobody has thought of anything like that yet! You should get to work on it right away.

    • I think I'm one of the privileged minority that gets the most bites...

      I have a racket that zaps the little buggers. Makes a satisfying snapping sound when I get one.
      I've thought it would be easy enough to stick the thing in the "on" position and put it over a bowl of sugar water with yeast :-)
        -- I doubt I can find any Limburger around here...

      • by emag (4640)

        My stepdad has (or at least had) one of those style zappers. Gnats and other flying pests small enough to get through screens are often a real problem where he lives, so he'd set it up over a bowl of vinegar in the kitchen. After a few hours, the counter around it would have dozens, if not hundreds, of formerly flying pests.

    • Found a better solution, emigrated to the USA ;-)

      Where were you from, and what part of the USA do you live in without mosquitoes? The desert? (seriously).

  • I'd really be interested in actual differences not "Don't drink beer". I'm the exact opposite. As long as there are other people around I'm safe. If I'm out near dusk and alone I'll get bitten but other than that they leave me almost completely alone.

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:07AM (#44296379) Journal

    So people here can stop guessing:

    Mosquitos prefer blood type O
    Most people secrete substances that allow mosquitoes to identify blood type before they bite.

    Beer drinkers beware
    Swigging just one bottle of beer can significantly boost your risk of being bitten

    Watch out for the full moon
    The tiny bloodsuckers are 500 times more active when the moon is full

    Keep your socks on
    The pungent aroma of dirty feet is apparently irresistible to mosquitoes

    Mosquitos know if you're expecting
    Moms-to-be get bitten about twice as often as women who aren't pregnant

    Running won't help you
    Both the carbon dioxide we exhale and substances in sweat, such as lactic acid, help mosquitoes home in on their prey.

    Dark-colored clothing can increase your risk of falling victim
    Like vampires, they prefer dark clothes

    • Dark-colored clothes attracts most insects, including bees and wasps. From what I recall, dark blue is one of the biggest attractors.

      • by ClaraBow (212734)
        One word: garlic! repels the little bastards and vamps too! But do stay out of the full moon -- werewolves love the smell of garlic!
        • by reboot246 (623534)
          It's true. I haven't been bitten by a mosquito in years. I take a garlic-based supplement called Allicin. There's no garlic smell that I can detect, but the little bloodsuckers can't stand it.
    • Give everyone else around you a banana. Just don't eat one yourself. Problem solved.

    • So people here can stop guessing:

      Mosquitos prefer blood type O

      Beer drinkers beware

      Watch out for the full moon

      Keep your socks on

      Mosquitos know if you're expecting

      Running won't help you

      Dark-colored clothing can increase your risk of falling victim

      Type A, don't drink, any time, clean feet with socks, male, standing still, wearing any color, and I'm still a mosquito magnet. The usual ratio is 10:1 compared to anyone else in the area. So, no, they have not discovered the reason.

    • It is all nothing anyone can control. When camping I used to burn pine needles and sit in the smoke. It seems to make a natural repellent. The other trick was to avoid eating fruit, especially bananas.
  • by Andrio (2580551) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:19AM (#44296531)
    The article caused me to experience a Flashback to the worst Mosquito related incident I've ever been through.

    Basically, the wife and I were driving through the Everglades one night, when the car got a flat tire. It didn't take *that* long to change it, but between me sweating from changing the tire and the wife holding a source of light, we got MASSACRED by mosquito. And these weren't your typical, run of the mill mosquitos. These were EVERGLADES mosquitos. I even had tons of bites on my feet--how the hell did they bite my feet when I was wearing shoes + socks? A week later, we were still scratching.

    The moral of the story: keep a can of mosquito spray in your trunk (Those things don't exceed 120F right?) if you're going to drive through anywhere swampy.
    • Re:Everglades (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:29AM (#44296657)

      Most bug sprays are intended to mask you from the bugs, it does a piss poor job of actually repelling them. You're best off keeping something that you can light and put around you (flares, candles, the wife's fruitcake). Or just hold a lighter in front of the bug spray as it comes out and ward them off like that. Of course, Everglades mosquitoes are just as likely to keep biting after they catch fire.

      • I've been to the Everglades. Under the circumstances the GP described, I would've siphoned half the tank and lit it up. NPS and EPA be damned. It's actually a fascinating place to visit, but should be renamed Mosquito National Park.

  • What, no mention of Marmite? Yahoo even have their own "answers" page about it, containing only slightly less information than this fluff piece.

    http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061113101418AAETa3c [yahoo.com]

    The obvious downside is that you need to eat Marmite [wikipedia.org], and about half of the population would rather catch malaria.

    • That product and its ilk (e.g. Vegemite) probably explain why the people who eat it talk so funny. Us 'mercans avoid it. I'd rather have malaria.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:32AM (#44296693)

    * Rub yourself down with Olive oil. Extra virgin in particular. Oh, don't stand too close to the bonfire.

    * DEET. Soak your cigar in it. The combination of second hand smoke and smell of chemical burns is a bit too much for them.

    * Cover all exposed areas. A scarf works great for the neck and stocking cap for the head. I find an additional two layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts keeps the buggers from reaching you. Oh, three pair of socks and rain boots for the feet.

    * Pig manure. It may sound crazy, but it works. Stop by your local pig farm on the way to your outdoor event and have a quick roll in the barnyard. Be sure to cover everything. After an hour or so, the manure dries to a hard crust which will protect you from being bitten for the rest of the day. Be sure to cover your face or they'll go for that in frustration.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Pig manure. It may sound crazy, but it works. Stop by your local pig farm on the way to your outdoor event and have a quick roll in the barnyard.

      I think anybody who has ever lived near/driven past a pig farm would suggest that, while this may or may nor keep the insects away, it sure as hell will keep the people away from you.

      Pig shit smells as bad as human shit.

      • by dAzED1 (33635)
        so, uh, you think that soaking a lit cigar with DEET (a highly flammable substance) or covering your body in olive oil were given as serious suggestions? You may want to consider the option that his suggestions were in jest.
        • WHOOSH!

          (And that was NOT the DEET laden cigar popping off.)

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          so, uh, you think that soaking a lit cigar with DEET (a highly flammable substance)

          Bah, once you dry the cigar again, it's no more toxic than the rest of the chemicals they already use.

          or covering your body in olive oil were given as serious suggestions?

          But, but ... I like the olive oil ... it feels nice and squishy, it makes me feel pretty and it's fun when we wrestle.

          You may want to consider the option that his suggestions were in jest.

          No shit, really? Boy, I didn't see that one coming. Glad you were

    • Erh... I prefer to be bitten to ANY of those options, thank you.

    • * Rub yourself down with Olive oil. Extra virgin in particular. Oh, don't stand too close to the bonfire.

      Fuck that. Use lamp oil and light it on fire. You'll never have a problem with the little bastards again. They don't tolerate fire very well either.

      * DEET. Soak your cigar in it. The combination of second hand smoke and smell of chemical burns is a bit too much for them.

      DEET is for pussies. Get some DDT and you should be set. Using an aircraft to spray it all over the place has been well proven. Don't get any cigar. Make sure you get a Panamanian cigar. You don't hear about mosquito problems in Panama ever. Make sure to inhale often. It helps mask the CO2 better that way.

      * Cover all exposed areas. A scarf works great for the neck and stocking cap for the head. I find an additional two layers of sweatpants and sweatshirts keeps the buggers from reaching you. Oh, three pair of socks and rain boots for the feet.

      Nobody wants to wear all that bulky clothing in mosquito

    • Pig manure.

      All you're doing is exchanging mosquitoes for flies.

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:50AM (#44296875) Journal
    I've seen this myself in my own family. I'm of Mediterranean extraction and my daughter takes after me with dark complexion and oily skin. Neither of us are bothered anywhere near as much as my wife and son who show more Germanic ancestry (fair skinned)
    This is so noticable that we comment on it all the time in the summer.
    • The best way to avoid mosquitoes is to sit next to somebody who attracts them more than you do. The little bastards bother me some, but not too much. They devour my wife though. If I sit next to her, they don't bother me at all!

  • Laser defense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RoccamOccam (953524) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @10:57AM (#44297003)
    I really want to build a laser mosquito zapper (like this one: http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/backyard-star-wars [ieee.org]). However, this looks pretty pricey (multiple cameras and galvanometers).
    • I really want to build a laser mosquito zapper (like this one: http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/backyard-star-wars [ieee.org]). However, this looks pretty pricey (multiple cameras and galvanometers).

      If the expense/time is a bit daunting, mosquitoes are attracted to heat, so some incandescent bulbs in front of a fan, with a mesh bag behind it, will scoop them out of the air (along with lots of other insects.) I had a friend with one of these and she collected something like a pound of insects per night.
      With that said, I don't think either one is going to make a dent in your local mosquito population unless you had two dozen of them running nonstop. Getting rid of stagnant water in your neighborhood wi

    • After reading the article, I see that they researched numerous aspects of building this mosquito burning laser fence, and even tested some subcomponents.

      They assert "In fact, for a few thousand dollars, a reasonably skilled engineer (such as a typical IEEE Spectrum reader) could probably assemble a version of our fence... " but as far as I can tell they didn't actually build a functioning fence themselves!

      Come on Intellectual Ventures all it takes is a reasonably skilled engineer, and a few thousand dollars

  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @11:07AM (#44297143)

    http://www.intellectualventures.com/index.php/inventions-patents/our-inventions/photonic-fence

    If patents are so good, we should have seen this on the market already. If IV puts this into the public domain, Walmart will have a Chinese mosquito laser system in stock by Christmas.

  • by TrentTheThief (118302) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @11:23AM (#44297389)

    I've been many in regions where mosquitoes thrive. I'm seldom bothered by them, however, and I attribute this to my long standing habit of snacking on hot peppers of one sort or another. Skip right by those jalapenos, though. They don't seem to work as well as some nice Scotch Bonnets, or Bird's Eyes (Thai). Habeneros work extremely well.

    I eat a handful of hot peppers everyday ;-)

  • At least it's not like in a colleague's case. That poor bastard attracts wasps.

  • We want to know how not to be a mosquito magnet. Like using a fan [nytimes.com] or eating garlic [quickanddirtytips.com].
  • Its well known in various climates conducive to mosquitos that what you eat has a direct effect on how badly you are attacked. What gets excreted from your sweat and skin oils attracts or repels mosquitos and its easy to tell if you pay any attention at all.

    Want to get eaten alive? Eat a few bananas and then go walk around a mosquito ridden area the next day.

    It amazes me it takes years for some scientist to reprint what I read in boys life 40 fucking years ago.

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