The invisible reasons mosquitoes prefer some people over others

It’s another bad mosquito year in Yukon, in part because conditions have been just right for them to multiply. So why do they prefer you to your friends or family?

Alcohol, blood type and the clothing colour could all be making you more attractive

Mosquitoes are particularly drawn to some people thanks to their body chemistry and blood type. (turkletom/Flickr cc)

Bad news for fans of having a beer while out on a hike or camping trip. 

That tasty alcohol? Mosquitoes seem to like it just as much as you do. 

"If you're having a cold beer or two at the end of the day, that can make you more attractive to mosquitoes," said Dan Peach, an entomologist who studies the insects in B.C. and Yukon. 

It appears to be another bad mosquito year in Yukon, in part because conditions have been just right for them to live long and prosper. 

"Climate change models predict warmer and wetter springs and early summers in the Yukon, and those are conditions the mosquitoes just love," Peach explained to host Elyn Jones on CBC Radio's Yukon Morning

There have also been similar complaints from around the country

Peach said the insects make use of any standing water they can, even puddles left behind as snow melts. 

Warming weather in Yukon has also meant there are more types of mosquitoes buzzing around. 

"Over the last five years or so, we've found five species that weren't previously known in the territory," Peach said. 

The role of skin chemistry

Though proliferating mosquitoes are bad news from a disease perspective — it's also plain annoying for nature-loving Yukoners.

So what else draws the bugs toward some people over others? 

The colour of clothing you are wearing can also factor in, said Peach. The darker the clothing, the more interested the insects will be. 

But much of the reason why mosquitoes are drawn to one person over another has to do with more permanent features, like blood type and skin chemistry. 

Dan Peach is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia who specializes in mosquito research. (Submitted by Dan Peach)

"Blood type is one that is actually supported by research. Type O is the most attractive," he said. 

Then there's the subtle cues given out by the microbes that live on your skin and the content of your exhaled breath — all of which can draw the insects to you. 

The only fix, says Peach, is to don insect repellant, explaining that traditional remedies like eating garlic don't have much basis in fact. 

If you're crafty, you can also make sure to bring people with Type O blood along for your next outdoors trip. 

"Particularly if you're standing with a friend who has Type A [blood,] they're certainly going to come munch on the person with Type O," said Peach. 

With files from Elyn Jones


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