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Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?

How do blood type, exercise habits, and even pregnancy factor into whether or not mosquitoes find someone irresistible?

By
Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD,
Episode #303

Anatomy of a Perfect Mosquito Victim

  • Someone who secrets a chemical signal, revealing their blood type (~85% of the population)
  • Type O blood
  • Higher metabolic rate (pregnant women, drinking alcohol, exercising)
  • Higher body temperature

Quick and Dirty Tips on Avoiding Mosquito Bites

So what can you do if your genetics predispose you to being considered extra delicious by mosquitoes? While you can’t change your genetics, there are a few steps you can take to camouflage yourself. For instance, mosquitoes look for dark clothing, motion, or anything that makes you stand out to signal to them that you are, in fact, delicious prey and not something else that emits CO2, like a tree.

As many of us have experienced, mosquitoes also prefer to feed at dusk and dawn when the humidity rises and the wind tends to die down. So if you can avoid being outside at those times, you will have more luck in avoiding them. And speaking of wind, mosquitoes have trouble flying in even a small wind so if you have to be out at dusk, try positioning yourself by a fan.

Insect repellant can also help but keep in mind that one kind of bug spray might not always work on all types of mosquito. DEET, for example, can be very effective on some species but others, like the aedes aegypti, appear to be immune. Even if a species does not have innate immunity, some have shown that they can become resistant to DEET in only a matter of hours of exposure.

Of course, if all else fails, you can always find someone tastier than you are and stand by them.

Do Head Lice Prefer a Certain Blood Type?

And while we are on the topic of insect preferences, you may have heard that lice also prefer a certain blood type. The research remains less clear for lice than it is for mosquitoes, but studies do show that lice prefer to stick to a single blood type for their meals. For example, one study showed that feeding on multiple blood types reduces a louse’s ability to reproduce and reduces their longevity. So it might make sense that blood types like O and A+ that are more common might also be more likely to attract lice, but more research is needed to firmly make the connection.

In the meantime, the Mayo Clinic has tips for avoiding head lice and for how to get rid of them if you don’t.

Until next time, this is Sabrina Stierwalt with Everyday Einstein’s Quick and Dirty Tips for helping you make sense of science. You can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at everydayeinstein@quickanddirtytips.com.

Image courtesy of shutterstock.

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About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt is an extragalactic astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Virginia.

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