Can A Mosquito Smell You?
Some of our favorite foods appeal to us because of the smell. Cooked bacon can send our taste buds into overdrive, or a waft of garlic can cause our saliva glands to go crazy. Smell is powerful and it can be part of many things that control our appetite. It’s the same for mosquitoes. Over time, they have evolved their sense of smell to sniff out their most desired food sources. One of which is human blood. Can a mosquito smell you enough to find you for its next meal?
The human scent is made up of a combination of 100 odor compounds. Not only are the compounds produced by a person but some are from their microbiome. These molecules aren’t unique to humans; other mammals such as guinea pigs also emit the same odor compounds—just in different blends. And even though human odor can also differ from person to person, mosquitoes can still distinguish the scent of a human from other mammals.
The smell of us humans is what tickles the smell senses of a mosquito. Some of us more than others.
When an adult female mosquito needs a blood meal to feed her young, she searches for a host—often a human. Many insects, mosquitoes included, are attracted by the odor of the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas that humans and other animals naturally exhale. However, mosquitoes can also pick up other cues that signal a human is nearby: they use their vision to spot a host and thermal sensory information to detect body heat. But how do the mosquitoes combine this information to map out the path to their next meal?
Becoming invisible to mosquitoes is almost impossible, but with the help of mosquito repellents, we can protect ourselves from being bitten. The DEET that’s used in mosquito repellent helps by blocking a mosquito’s sense of smell and making it harder for it to find its human target. Every time you could be in a position of exposure to mosquitoes then you want to make sure you spray yourself and become as invisible as humanly possible to these annoying, disease-spreading pests.
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