Are you a mosquito magnet?

They seem to come out of nowhere. They find you when you’re gardening, walking the dog, checking the mail – with no respect for personal space. It’s pretty annoying how good they are at sneaking up on us. But why are they so good at finding us? 

Keen senses

Mosquitoes use a highly tuned sensory system to zero in on their next blood meal. From as far as 200 feet, mosquitoes can sense the carbon dioxide we exhale and are pulled closer to the source in hopes of a quick bite.

Once the carbon dioxide has drawn her (only females bite) within sight, she is further attracted by dark colors and high-contrast patterns. So remember to choose long, loose, light-colored clothing with a tight weave as a good first defense against female mosquitos. She seeks a blood meal, not to feed herself, but in pursuit of protein to make eggs.   

Did you know?

Mosquitos drink plant nectar to fuel their bodies and pollinate plants in the process.

Getting warmer

When within three feet the mosquito can sense your heat signature, differentiating you from say, a park bench. Investigating further, she hones in on a specific area to land using “smells” she picks up through her antennae. Lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia in sweat, as well as the scent of fabric softeners, perfumes and colognes can all attract mosquitoes.  

Cloaking spray

Mosquito repellants fight the bite two ways. One is to jam chemical signals from reaching a mosquito’s antennae. The other is to be offensive to the mosquito once she lands and can “taste” it with her feet.  Repellents may use one or both approaches – termed primary and secondary repellency.  

As we each have a unique chemical signature, try a few repellents to find the one that’s most effective for you. Look on the front of the bottle to find one of the active ingredients the CDC recommends: Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, DEET, or IR3535. What works best for you might be different from your partner or kids

Sensory trickery

The Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program of The Woodlands Township uses the mosquito’s keen sensory perception to our advantage. We use a variety of lures and baits to attract mosquitoes into traps for weekly monitoring throughout the Township. For example, the Biogents Sentinel trap uses a lure that smells a lot like stinky gym socks. It also has a high-contrast color pattern and can be made more appealing by the addition of dry ice to emit carbon dioxide. These three features mimic a human host, drawing the mosquitoes close enough to be sucked into a net by a battery-powered fan. The captured mosquitoes are collected the next morning and sent to a laboratory for identification and disease testing. Tracking changes in the number of mosquitoes caught, species present, and disease trends over time provides the foundation for mosquito control activities in The Woodlands.

Learn more about mosquitoes and how to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease at To report a mosquito concern email or call 281-210-3800. 

Leave a Reply