What the HAYnes? Why mosquitoes like me; scratch that, love me, and not you

HUMOR – I have recently returned from a camping trip in Snow Canyon State Park and have concluded that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who scratch their mosquito bites and the jerks who tell people us we should not scratch our mosquito bites – you know the kind, those who smugly give you that pitying stare and tell you they aren’t getting bit, that mosquitoes don’t like them?

I admit that I am a scratcher, but it is only because mosquito bites itch like the dickens and because I have the impulse control of a meth addict. It certainly does not help that mosquitoes love me more than they love normal people.

I do not mean to sound vain, but mosquitoes have always found me unusually attractive. In human situations I attribute my allure to my irresistible sweatpants or how I smell of flowery shampoo with just a hint of bacon and Oreo cookies. With mosquitoes it is a different story: They love me for who I am.

I have several friends who have made the same claim – that mosquitoes are unusually attracted to them – and so I have gotten to the bottom of this mystery once and for all.

As it turns out, mosquitoes are attracted to a variety of things: carbon dioxide emissions, warm body temperatures, human scents, blood type, movement, dark clothing, and Juicy Couture perfume. At least, that has been my experience.

According to the Smithsonian, “One of the key ways mosquitoes locate their targets is by smelling the carbon dioxide emitted in their breath — they use an organ called a maxillary palp to do this, and can detect carbon dioxide from as far as 164 feet away. As a result, people who simply exhale more of the gas over time … have been shown to attract more mosquitoes than others.”

That is the problem. We have been attracting mosquitoes with all of our wanton exhaling.

If mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide emissions, then following the transitive property, the more a person speaks, the more attractive that person is to mosquitoes. That is not just my opinion that is a mathematical fact. And it explains a lot. The most verbal people I know are also prone to an inordinate number of unwanted mosquito advances.

The Southwest Mosquito Abatement and Control District describes it this way: “(Feeding) is often triggered by carbon dioxide, with the insect finding the host by flying up the odor plume generated by the host.”

Until today, I was unaware that I had an odor “plume” beyond my shampoo and bacon smell. I will have to work on that.

Our other problem is that a mosquito comes at us more equipped than a stealth missile. It can detect a human being from 164 feet away and yet a human being cannot detect a mosquito even when it has stabbed its needle-like probuscis into her skin, plying and probing with six mouth parts to plunge its sucker into one rich vein, draining her blood for upwards of four minutes. Layers of DEET offer little defense to these wicked pirates and try as we might to camouflage ourselves, we know we’ve been had when those welts emerge and our fingers reach down in violent mutiny against our minds’ commands and we scratch, and scratch and scratch.

So don’t tell me not to scratch. There is nothing we can do about that.

We are resigned to applying more mosquito repellant, wearing long sleeves and white jeans – that’s right, our needle-nosed stalkers favor dark blue, and black, and grey … and, evidently, me.


Elise Haynes chronicles family life in her blog Haynes Family Yard Sale. Any opinions stated in this column are her own and not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.


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1 Comment

  • Bill Jordan September 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Try using a dryer sheet in your pocket. You might smell phouphou but you won’t be scratching. Dryer sheets are a must for camping. Try it and let us know what you think.

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