The Scientific Reason You Are (Or Aren’t) a Mosquito Magnet

One of the most dangerous bugs you need to watch out for in summer is mosquitoes, but no matter how hard you try, some people naturally attract mosquitoes more than others. That’s because mosquitoes track people down by smell and body odor. Female mosquitoes rely on all sorts of sensory information when deciding which people to bite. The carbon dioxide people exhale — along with chemicals from the skin — create an “odor plume” that mosquitoes can detect from up to 100 feet away. Each person gives off more than 300 chemicals from the skin and more than 100 in exhaled breath. That explains why mosquitoes are attracted to smelly items like stinky socks, worn clothes, and bedding — even when there’s no carbon dioxide around. The blend of chemicals you produce is only partially in your control. These chemicals depend on your genetic makeup, health status, diet, skin pH, and microflora — the microorganisms that live on the skin. Some people falsely think that having “sweet blood” or blood type are factors, while others believe taking Vitamin B or eating garlic makes people less attractive to mosquitoes. To date, there’s no scientific data backing for those claims. If you’re a mosquito magnet, the best thing to do is look for a repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon-eucalyptus oil. Citronella, while a popular option, only protects for a short amount of time.