Are You a Mosquito Magnet?

By Mallory Lane

Published 06/27 2014 05:02PM

Updated 06/27 2014 06:30PM

STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - They're pesky creatures that always seem to ruin your backyard summer barbecue, but now researchers say they're closer to figuring out why.

Experts say mosquitoes could be more attracted to you for a number of reasons, but believe the answer could be in your DNA.

"You can imagine a small mosquito flying around outside, how does it find the right host it wants to feed on," Penn State Entomology Professor Matthew Thomas said.

That's the question entomologists like Thomas have been trying to answer for decades.

"Body mass is important. If you're bigger, you tend to generate more Co2 in your breath, which is an important cue," Thomas said. "If you've exercised more recently, you give off more lactic acid, which can be an important cue. Whether you've had a drink of beer or not, what you've eaten recently."

Yes, you heard it right. Drinking a beer and some types of food can make you more attractive to mosquitoes.

Your blood type can also play a role. Type O blood is generally more attractive than A or B or AB types.

It could also come down to the color of the clothes you're wearing, as mosquitoes like darker colors.

Pregnant women tend to be more attractive, too.

"Pregnant women tend to run at a slightly hotter temperature and heat is an important cue, particularly a short range cue that mosquitoes use," Thomas said.

The good news?

"The high quality repellents that you actually apply to your skin, topical application, do work very well, particularly those that contain DEET," Thomas said.

He said to remain diligent while applying insect repellent as mosquitoes can still find spots you missed.

Another factor you may think about with mosquitoes is disease. Centre County tested positive for West Nile Virus in May.

"We were one of the earliest counties in the state to go positive," Centre County West Nile Coordinator Bert Lavan said. "There are now eight counties in Pennsylvania that are positive. That's a little bit ahead of last year's pace."

Lavan suggests trying to get rid of anything around your home that holds standing water, like buckets or old tires. He said that's the most common breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Dusk and dawn are prime times for mosquitoes, so make sure you wear long sleeves and pants to help protect yourself from bites.

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