I think I was around five years old when I first learned what a mosquito was. We were visiting relatives at my grandmother’s house when my aunt spotted a mosquito buzzing through the room.
“Quick! Kill it!” she cried. I could see the mosquito flying through the air a few feet in front of me. It seemed annoying but harmless – like a fly. Having never heard of mosquitoes before, I couldn’t understand my aunt’s revulsion and alarm. When it was explained to me that mosquitoes suck blood out of your body through a needle-like stinger that they stick into your skin, it sounded like a freakish creature out of my nightmares. I thought perhaps she was teasing me, but the rest of my relatives nodded their heads solemnly and assured me it was all true. Like all humans, I’ve been wary of them ever since.
I must say that I haven’t had particular need to be cautious of mosquitos throughout my life. I seem to be one of the 80% of people who attract them only weakly. My husband, on the other hand, seems particularly cursed. He has been bitten at all times of day, in all manner of locations. The mosquitoes find him wherever he is, and appear to enjoy his blood above all others. It’s always puzzled me why this was so.
Apparently, mosquito – attractors like my husband make such delicious meals because they release more heat and carbon dioxide through their skin. Essentially, they have a faster metabolism that runs hotter and therefore releases more gas and chemicals, like lactic acid or uric acid, than other people. High concentrations of hormones or cholesterol near the surface of the skin will also attract them.
Some mosquitoes are attracted to the strains of bacteria on your skin, which varies from person to person. This may be why mosquitoes tend to target bacteria-rich areas like your ankles and feet. Or, they may prefer the warmth of the skin near your neck and armpits, or the greater volume of acetone and carbon dioxide released near your mouth.
Your blood type can also make you a more delicious meal. People with blood type ‘O’ appear to attract twice as many mosquitoes as other blood types, with blood type ‘A’ bitten the least often.
Essentially, if you attract mosquitoes like a drop of syrup attracts ants, you are a “yang” type person. Yang-type people have heat and energy to spare, and have particularly rich blood due to their stronger digestive abilities. They’re like a wandering gourmet buffet compared to those more “yin” type people, who offer a sparer lunch. These comparisons to meals aside, it should be noted that mosquitoes don’t actually eat the blood they take. The females who collect it use it to develop their fertilized eggs, which is why a richer blood is preferred. They want the best for their children after all, and who can blame them?
So, how can you avoid being bitten if you’re one of those unlucky yang-type mosquito – attractors? Wearing light -coloured clothing will make you less visible to mosquitoes, and moving slowly so as to exude less heat, carbon dioxide and chemicals through your skin should also help. (Playing a sport is not a good idea). As always, it’s best to avoid going out at dawn and dusk when the wind dies down, humidity rises, and mosquitoes are particularly populous. Also, if a fan is pointed at you, it makes it harder for a mosquito to reach you.
Other than heavy use of citronella candles, you can also prepare a chemical-free mosquito repellent by filling an empty spray bottle with 1/3 vodka, witch hazel, or rubbing alcohol, and then topping it up with water. Then add a mixture of these essential oils: 10 drops peppermint, 5 drops rosemary, 5 drops eucalyptus, 10 drops lemon, 5 drops lavender, and 5 drops of clove. It may not work quite as well as DEET, but it’s safe and chemical-free.
With this small list of advice, I hope you’re able to minimize the number of mosquitoes that surround you this summer. We’ll never truly beat those flying vampires – they’ve been around for 170 million years! – but we can try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible so we can enjoy the gorgeous sights and smells of summer.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.