Summer in Miami. You get home from a long day, grab a beer, and sit on your patio. Suddenly, you're ambushed. Mosquitoes swarm your ankles and arms, piercing your flesh as you frantically swat the blood-sucking parasites. You run into the shelter of your home, slam the door behind you, and hope none of them followed you inside, as you curse the fact that these pests somehow target you more than your friends.
Well, maybe it has something to do with that craft beer in your hands.
A recent article in Smithsonian explains why about 20 percent of the population seem to be mega-attractors for mosquitoes, sending off an invisible "hot lunch" signal to the nuisances.
The article goes on to note that your natural scent can be a powerful draw for mosquitoes. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia, which increase after exercise, can work the same way on a mosquito as a steak dinner does on people.
Because mosquitoes bite us for the proteins in our blood, blood type is also a factor, with type O being especially appetizing to the insects. They also seem to target their prey (including us) by sight, so wearing dark or bright colors makes us more noticeable. Mosquitoes, like werewolves, also attack more during a full moon.
Mosquitoes also tend to gravitate toward people who have been drinking alcohol. According to a study conducted by the Department of Biodefence Medicine at Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Sugitani, Japan, and posted on the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website, people who drink alcohol "should be careful about their increased risk to mosquito bites."
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That conclusion came after the university conducted an experiment in which 13 volunteers (12 men and one unlucky woman) were chosen as test hosts. One other man was used as a control. The scientists measured the ethanol content in the sweat and the skin temperature of the subjects and then sent in the mosquitoes. The study "demonstrated that percent mosquito landing on volunteers significantly increased after beer ingestion compared with before ingestion, showing clearly that drinking alcohol stimulates mosquito attraction."
Though scientists still don't have a complete understanding of why mosquitoes target some people and leave others alone, we'll heed their advice and take happy hour inside -- at least until the fall.