Happy Annivesary, #@%& Mosquitoes!

Image from: wackystuff

Has it really been only a year since I wrote my last whiny post about mosquitoes?

It seems like just a few short months ago that I posted about how dumb I am about letting myself get bit all the time because I hate bug spray, and how I was trying to find alternatives to DEET because of possible risks like skin irritation and "diffuse brain cell death." Fortunately, there were some that were supposed to be particularly effective, but did I get around to trying them? Err...

Anyway, it seems it's time again for another mosquito post! For one, even if you read it last year, you might have thought "hmm, must look into these DEET alternatives," then totally forgot to do it. Or in my case, you could have gone to the local drugstore, discovered they didn't carry them, made a note to order some online... then totally forgot about it. Anyway, I can remind you what those alternatives are if you're interested.

But another reason for a new mosquito post is I just read some research confirming what many have suspected: some people are indeed mosquito magnets!

Yep, if it seems to you like you're getting bit a lot more than your friends? It may not be your imagination. Due to body chemistry, certain people are just much more appealing to the bloodsucking little pests.

Are You A Mosquito Magnet?

So the mosquito magnet article is over at WebMd. Here are some highlights:

  • Genetics are about 85% responsible for our attractiveness to mosquitoes.

  • High concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on the skin attracts mosquitoes. But it doesn't necessarily correlate with people's cholesterol levels; some folks may be better at processing cholesterol and so the byproducts end up on the skin's surface.

  • Mosquitoes like people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid.

  • Mosquitoes love carbon dioxide, and can smell it from up to 50 meters away. And pregnant women and people who are larger than average give off more carbon dioxide.

  • Also, people who are active and moving around give off more carbon dioxide. (The article then suggests you choose a lounge chair rather than a volleyball game if you're worried about mosquitoes at an outdoor gathering.)

However, on that last point, I say hell no. For one, if you're gonna be out for hours and hours in a location where there are mosquitoes? Just face facts, you're screwed! Bring some repellent. (More on that below). Also, from personal experience, I've discovered that when I'm running, mosquitoes are much less likely to land on me than when I'm walking or sitting, even if theoretically I'm giving off more carbon dioxide and smelling much tastier. Perhaps I'm just living amongst unusually lazy mosquitoes who are too slothful to chase me? Anyway, I wouldn't suggest the "sit on your ass" strategy for mosquito prevention, unless perhaps you're really just in the mood to sit on your ass anyway and would like a good excuse.

Why a DEET Alternative?

DEET is pretty darn effective, but as I said, there was some pesky DEET research that suggested the potential for brain cell death--that is, if you use a LOT of it and if you are a RAT. Most mainstream medical sources don't seem too concerned about the safety aspects with occasional use, and talk more about minor side effects like numbness or irritation, or about the fact that DEET in high concentrations will melt plastic. (Which is indeed a pain if you're camping and get it all over your gear).

If you are looking for non-DEET alternatives, there are two that seem to be most recommended: one is Picaridin, which doesn't have the stinky smell that DEET does and won't melt your gear. You can find it in Cutter Advanced. And a compilation of the picaridin effectiveness research and reviews seems to suggest it's pretty effective.

The other is a natural product, and is supposed to be very effective as well: it's oil of lemon eucalyptus, and is found in the brand "Repel."

Backyard Battles:

Speaking of "mosquito magnets," we were so freaked out by having mosquitoes in our back yard that we broke down and bought one of these thingies.

They're pricey, ugly, and a pain in the ass because you keep having to replenish the propane and do other maintenancy things. But they put out carbon dioxide and attract the mosquitoes and really do seem to have helped reduce the mosquito population in our yard. But not, alas, to zero, the only truly acceptable number for resident mosquitoes as far as I'm concerned.

(The most hilarious thing about these mosquito traps? The model names! Would you like the "Liberty?" Or the "Independence?" Or perhaps the "Executive?" The Executive excels at catching the cleverest, most devious, top-level CEO type mosquitoes. Or something.)

Anyway, does anyone else hate mosquitoes? Any tips on keeping them away?

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