Why You Smell Good To A Mosquito

Photo of Sharol Tilgner
Photo of mosquito on someone's skin.
Mosquito On Skin Photo by icon0.com from Pexels

Mosquitoes Are Attracted To More Than CO2

We have known for some time that mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 we breath out. However, more recently studies have been examining the mosquitoes attraction to how we smell. It turns out mosquitoes think some folks smell better than others.

None of us like getting bitten by mosquitoes. However, it becomes really important if you live in an area with malaria. So, researchers are trying to figure out how to make people smell bad to a mosquito.

HLA Genes

It turns out that human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes are involved in regulation of human body odor. So, HLA genes were studied and it was discovered that those with HLA gene Cw.07 are more attractive to mosquitoes. The same research looking at these genes also looked at the scents that were associated with these people, and found out that limonene, 2-phenylethanol, and 2-ethyl-1-hexanol were associated with individuals that were not very attractive to the mosquitoes. However,   lactic acid, 2-methylbutanoic acid, tetradecanoic acid, and octanal was very attractive to the mosquitoes.


Why Limonene Works To Repel Mosquitoes

The fact that the people repelling the mosquitoes had a limonene component in their scent is no surprise since limonene containing essential oils are used as mosquito repellants. There are various research experiments showing limonene containing herbs as effective for use as  insect repellents. The citrus essential oils contain limonene. Other essential oils containing limonene that are often used as  mosquito repellant are Citronella, Geranium, Lavender,  Pennyroyal and lemongrass. Some herbs that contain limonene that you might not expect to would be Black pepper and Dill.


An Herbal Spray You Can Make At Home

Make a base of 40% alcohol & 60% water. To each 1 ounce of mix add:

  • Citronella – 20 drop
  • Lavender – 10 drops
  • Pennyroyal - 6 drops

Need to add the essential oils to each individual bottle as they will not mix and pour correctly otherwise.

I like to use pennyroyal but it is hard to get nowadays due to people taking it internally, which you should not do. If you want to use another herb, you can substitute Geranium, Lemongrass, or simply add more of one of the other herbs.

Herbal essential oil sprays should be sprayed on clothing rather than on the skin. It will absorb through the skin and can become toxic if sprayed in excess. Additionally, some people have skin reactions to essential oils. Lastly, your hot skin will cause it to evaporate a little quicker than when sprayed on your clothing.


The Skin Microflora Changes How Mosquitoes React to You

Now where it became really interesting to me as a person fascinated with all the bugs that live on, and in our body, is the research looking at human skin microbiota, and how the scent from the microflora on our skin is more or less attractive to the mosquitoes.

It turns out that the people most attractive to the mosquitoes are the people with a high number of skin bacteria, but lower diversity of bacteria on the skin. Those with more microbial diversity were less attractive.

They even looked at which bacteria were more or less attractive to the mosquitoes. The mosquitoes seemed to like the smell of Staphylococcus epidermidis. People with a higher amount of Pseudomonas spp. or Variovorax spp. and had greater overall diversity were less attractive to mosquitoes.

Using Bacterial Spray To Repel Mosquitoes

This means in the not so distant future, you might be spraying bacteria over your skin when in a mosquito infested area. There is already bacteria skin (Nitrosomonas eutropha) spray that is being used to decrease body odor. Soon, there will be one to repel mosquitoes.


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