How bananas and beer could make you more 'delicious' to mosquitoes

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a laboratory in Brazil, on Feb 2, 2016.
Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a laboratory in Brazil, on Feb 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

This story was first published on July 26, 2013, and updated on July 2, 2016.

It is now peak dengue season, the National Environment Agency said last week.

In hot and humid Singapore, the war against mosquitoes is constantly being waged.

Did you know that many factors can affect how "attractive" a person is to mosquitoes, including what you eat?

 

An estimated 20 per cent of people are bitten by mosquitoes more often than others, according to an article in Smithsonian magazine.

Blood type, metabolism, exercise, shirt colour and even drinking beer could play a role, scientists believe.

Here's a look at some of the factors:

1. Blood type

According to one study, mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. People with Type B blood fell somewhere in the middle of this itchy spectrum.

2. Carbon dioxide

The smell of carbon dioxide emitted in the breath is how mosquitoes locate their target, even if he is 50m away. As a result, people who simply exhale more of the gas over time have been shown to attract more mosquitoes. Larger people tend to exhale more of the gas and scientists believe this could explain why adults tend to get bitten more often than children, on the whole, according to the report.

3. Exercise and metabolism

Mosquitoes also find victims at closer range by smelling the lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other substances expelled in their sweat.

Strenuous exercise increases the build-up of lactic acid and heat in the body.

4. Skin bacteria

A 2011 study found that certain types of bacteria on skin make the individual more appealing to mosquitoes, the Smithsonian magazine report said.

Surprisingly, though, having lots of bacteria but a greater diversity of different species of bacteria seemed to make skin less attractive.

5. Skin lotions and perfume

Skin care products that clean, soften and moisturise can attract these pests, as do perfumes. While such products may improve your appearance and scent, they are likely to make you more attractive to mosquitoes as well.

6. Beer

Another study in 2002 by Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University researchers found that just a single 350ml bottle of beer can make an individual more attractive to the insects.

7. Bananas and potato chips

Mosquitos are drawn to lactic acid, and food rich in salt and potassium increases the amount of lactic acid you give off.

Eating tasty salty snacks like chips and fries and potassium-rich food like bananas and potatoes could make you tastier to mosquitoes - although some studies have not found a link.

Do note that potassium is good for health and helps lower blood pressure.

8. Garlic

Eating garlic doesn't help, contrary to popular belief, but smelling like garlic might.

Mr Joe Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association told ABC News that studies did not show that eating garlic reduced bug bites.

"If you take garlic and squeeze it on your skin, that portion of your skin will be repellent to mosquitoes for about 20-40 minutes," he said.

9. Steroids and cholesterol

Excessive amounts of certain body compounds on our skin attract mosquitoes. For example, people with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin are prime targets, says WedMD.

This does not mean that mosquitoes prey on people with higher overall levels of cholesterol, but rather those who are more efficient at processing cholesterol, the by-products of which remain on the skin's surface.

10. Dark clothing

To mosquitoes, dark colours stand out more than light shades. They respond especially to blue, according to a medical entomologist at the University of Florida.

11. Pregnancy

In several different studies, pregnant women have been found to attract roughly twice as many mosquito bites as others, likely a result of the unfortunate confluence of two factors: They exhale about 21 per cent more carbon dioxide and are on average about 0.7 deg C warmer than others.

12. Genetics

Underlying genetic factors could account for 85 per cent of the variability between people in their appeal to mosquitoes.

And some researchers have started looking at the reasons why a minority of people seem to rarely attract mosquitoes in the hopes of creating the next generation of insect repellents, the Smithsonian report said.


One of the most effective ways to stop that itch is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the first place.

This means clearing away stagnant water which is where they lay their eggs.

The majority of mosquito breeding spots are found in homes, in places such as water containers, and flower pot plates and trays.

Preventive measures include getting rid of such instances of stagnant water, and covering the toilet bowl and floor traps when leaving on a holiday.