Updated Jun 7, 2023 - Health

Think you're sweet? Mosquitoes don't.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Mosquitoes probably don't think your blood's "sweet," but they might like your stink.

Why it matters: Thanks to the warmer, wetter weather, mosquito season could be especially itchy and long this year. And everything from body odor to what you drink can affect how miserable you get.

What's happening: Some mosquitoes bite because they need human blood to help their eggs develop.

There are more than 3 thousand species of mosquitoes, but only a small percentage of those actually bite humans, said Duke biology professor Ke Dong, who's researched what repels mosquitoes.

  • Of those, it’s only the females who bite humans (males don’t).
  • And only specific mosquitoes carry viruses, which the CDC tracks.

There are several factors that could attract a biter to you.

Body odor

Sweat and body heat

  • Mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide and heat.
  • One study found pregnant people were twice as attractive to certain mosquitoes. Likely part of the reason: They had overall hotter body temperatures and exhaled more than non-pregnant people.


  • A couple of studies demonstrated that mosquitoes were more likely to land on people drinking beer.

Yes, but: Garlic might keep them at bay.

  • A postdoctoral researcher in Dong's lab ran into trouble when he was doing research that required mosquitoes to go for his hand — but the bugs were staying away.
  • "His experiments were not working because he was eating a lot of Italian food with a lot of garlic," Dong said.

Be smart: To protect yourself against mosquito bites, the CDC recommends the usual preventive measures:

  • Use and reapply EPA-registered bug repellants like DEET because "mosquitoes definitely don’t like it," Dong said.
  • Apply bug repellent after sunscreen.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and consider clothing that has the insecticide permethrin.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that male mosquitoes don’t bite humans and note the number of mosquito species.

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