Jun 29 2010

I feel itchy

Published by at 7:45 am under Insects, Fish, Frogs

"For someone who likes the outdoors it's surprising how much you hate insects." 

Well, yes.  That's the impression people get when they hear me talk about ticks and mosquitoes.

I HATE mosquitoes. 

My skin overreacts to mosquito bites which instantly become red, itchy welts.  I steel myself not to scratch them but my guard is down while I'm asleep and I wake to discover I scratched them overnight.  The bites are bigger and itchier than ever.   Aaaaarrrggg!

Only female mosquitos bite us and they do it to get a blood meal so they can develop their eggs.  While drinking our blood the little vampires inject us with their saliva which contains anticoagulant.  That's how they transfer disease.  That's how people catch malaria and how birds catch West Nile virus. 

In the beginning of time mosquitos bit only birds but now they bite mammals as well.  Why did they add mammals to the menu?  Because we smell just as tasty.

Mosquitos use their antennae to smell and they can sense much more than we do.  For starters, they can "smell" carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas birds and mammals exhale. 

But there's more to it than that.  Last year researchers Walter Leal and Zain Syed of University of California, Davis identified the odor that when coupled with CO2 delivers the double-whammy, the odor that makes us irresistible.

"Nonanal is how they find us," said Leal. "The antennae of the Culex quinquefasciatus are highly developed to detect even extremely low concentrations of nonanal." 

When Leal and Syed baited mosquito traps with CO2 and nonanal (pronounced NAWN-uh-nawl) it more than doubled the attraction of CO2 alone.  This had to be painstaking work in more ways than one.

Now that they know what really attracts mosquitos, I hope they figure out how I can stop emitting it.  In the meantime I'll continue to hike with long pants and long sleeves in hot, humid weather - just to avoid being bitten. 

Did I tell you I HATE mosquitoes?

(photo of a mosquito on a hollyhock from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the photo to see the original.)

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “I feel itchy”

  1. faith Cornellon 29 Jun 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Makes me itch just you talking about it. Lived more outside when younger than I do now & when I get bit it seems so much worse. I sympathize with you. It never kept me in either, just lived thru & around it somehow.

  2. Mary Ann Pikeon 29 Jun 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I’m with you there…I feel stupid hiking in long pants and long sleeves when it’s 80 degrees and there are people in shorts and tank tops on the trails, but otherwise I get eaten alive (my husband is one of those people they aren’t attracted to). We were in Alaska, whose state bird is the Mosquito…really, they are big up there, and there are a lot of them! We were in a hot tub at one of the lodges we stayed in, and by the time I got out I had six huge welts across my forehead along the brim of my hat.

  3. Kate St. Johnon 29 Jun 2010 at 4:01 pm

    State bird. Aaack!

    My husband & I went to Finland years ago in early July. The mosquitoes were indeed huge and they bit me through my clothing. I guess when a bug is that big it’s not hard for it to needle its way through cotton. 🙁

  4. alexion 29 Jun 2010 at 4:36 pm

    oh i feel for you kate. i get all red and welty big time, too. in addition when i get bit around my knees or elbows, i get an additional mountain of swelling. i, too, can resist the scratch during the day but not while i’m sleeping. my husband never gets bit. when we lived in tennessee, i would get 5 bites in the 15ft walk between our front door and our car. i guess i would be considered a “super-attractor”. btw…if you haven’t noticed, i HATE mosquitos, too!!

  5. John Englishon 29 Jun 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Well… here comes that camp lore again. I’ve used all 3 of these with moderate effectiveness as alternatives to DEET.
    1. Avon Skin So Soft. I prefer the stick 🙂
    2. An unscented dryer sheet tucked in a pocket or under shirt collar.
    3. Any fern. Crush leaves and rub on skin. I’ve used wood fern, bracken, Christmas fern and sensitive fern.


  6. faith Cornellon 29 Jun 2010 at 6:45 pm

    A mosquito is a terrible “bug”
    It hits you like a thug.

    You go on a walk
    & you can hardly talk

    For the itch is a “b–ch.

    Couldn’t resist ladies!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Robinon 29 Jun 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Is there anyone out there who LIKES mosquitoes? Thank goodness my grandmother gave me Chinese medicine to apply to the bites. It really helps.

  8. Lauren Conkleon 30 Jun 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I change the water in my birdbath often to make sure the little devils aren’t breeding in there.

  9. Raineon 03 Jul 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I’m originally from WI, now living in TX. I’d rather have mosquitoes than fire ants :).

    For mosquitoes regular scented Bounce brand dryer sheets work amazingly well. Rub one over your clothes and tuck it in a pocket. Great for football season. I used to carry a few extra to evening games to hand out to moms who brought little ones along.

    I take a daily B-complex vitamin and was told this also repels mosquitoes.

  10. Anne Curtison 15 Jul 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Did the research suggest that women might emit more CO2 or nonanal than men? From comments above, and my personal observation, it seems we get bitten (and have stronger reactions) than the guys walking beside us!

    BTW, I do not use scent of any sort, and use the same bath soap as my husband. Maybe it’s the “sugar and spice and all things nice” from the children’s rhyme that makes us so attractive!


  11. Kate St. Johnon 16 Jul 2010 at 7:15 am

    The article didn’t mention any differences between men’s & women’s production of those two substances. Mosquitos bite me more often than my husband but I’ve met women for whom the opposite true. A mystery.

  12. Kate St. Johnon 21 Jul 2010 at 6:35 am

    Here are some great no-poison methods for getting rid of or repelling mosquitoes from Clean Air Gardening: http://tinyurl.com/26lyjr6
    See the rest of their website here: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/

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