Why you are completely punctured by mosquitoes (and your partner is not)

It is summer again and the mosquitoes are coming out massively. When you hear buzz in the bedroom you know that the next morning is hit: you’re under the mosquito bites.

But why are you always stung, and not your partner? Entomologist Bart Knols (Radboud University) explains it to you in his lecture at the University of the Netherlands.

Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds. Only the females feed on blood. Credit: James Gathany/CDC

To begin with, it is important to know how mosquitoes can actually find us.It is only the female mosquitoes who prick blood and they seek their prey by means of a kind of antenna on their heads.This antenna contains odor receptors with which mosquitoes can observe us up to 70 meters away.

People through their skin produce more than three hundred chemical compounds from which mosquitoes can absorb a part. On top of that, we exhale more than a hundred chemical compounds that are also observed by mosquitoes. Which compounds we excrete exactly depends on our genes but also on our diet. As a result, every person has a unique smell profile: we all smell differently.

Mosquitoes respond to this odor profile. Some of the smells attract mosquitoes, these are attractive smells. Odors that appeal to mosquitoes are the smell of sweaty feet, the smell that you emit after exercise and just after you have been drinking beer. Pregnant women are also more attractive to mosquitoes because they exhale many chemical compounds due to their increased metabolism.


But every person also produces smells that repel mosquitoes. To determine whether a mosquito finds a specific odor profile attractive or not, it concerns the relationship between attractive scents and repellent odors. The more attractive smells you excrete, the more the mosquito will come to you. Every person smells differently and so it is possible that you, because you emit more attractive smells, are put in more often than your partner.

Fortunately, we can influence our attractive scents. Based on the knowledge of which substances mosquitoes attract and repel, mosquito repellants are made to protect you against the mosquito. Knols talks about a number of myths and about the remedies that really work.
First the fables: eating a lot of garlic would drive away mosquitoes.

According to Knols this works very well to keep other people at bay, but mosquitoes do not care about this. Secondly, the well-known citronella painters, which are often used to ward off mosquitoes. It has never been scientifically proven that such a candle on the table has any effect. Finally, the apps with ultrasound that supposedly mimic the sound of the male mosquito: this too is total nonsense, according to Knols.

Garlic keeps other people at bay, but mosquitoes do not care about it. Bart Knols, entomologist.
Garlic keeps other people at bay, but mosquitoes do not care about it. Bart Knols, entomologist.


What does it work? Knols gives the advice to use things with which you completely rub yourself. He himself uses eucalyptus oil with the active substance citriodiol. This repels the mosquitoes for up to six to eight hours, is natural and therefore not harmful to health. Another option is DEET. 20 percent of this substance, which is not so good for health, is absorbed by the skin. This is therefore not the healthiest option, but a very effective one!

So if you do not like to be punctured again tonight, go to the pharmacy for a bottle of eucalyptus oil or DEET. Then you and your partner will both be having breakfast without itching tomorrow morning. Is so honest.

This is a weekly contribution from the University of the Netherlands.
De Universiteit van Nederland heeft vanaf nu ook een podcast. Vind ze terug op Spotify (http://bit.do/UvNL-Spotify) en iTunes (http://bit.do/UvNL-iTunes). Translated from Dutch / source: Universiteit van Nederland / Ad.nl