Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ask the Experts

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ask the Experts

Article excerpt

Q Why do mosquitoes devour me, while they ignore my brother-in-law! (I use deodorant, honest!)

John Berry

Science Teacher

Green High School

Green, Ohio

(Editor's note: Because no single definitive answer exists yet as to what attracts mosquitoes, this month we've decided to run answers from two different experts.)

A The short answer is we don't know yet. We do know that mosquitoes zero in on a combination of odorants: most famously the carbon dioxide we and other animals exhale, but also a variety of body odors present in sweat as well as some generated by bacteria on our skin, especially on our feet. There is a considerable research focus on determining what is different between humans and other animals, in the context of understanding the human-specific host-seeking behavior of malaria vectors like Anopheles gambiae in Africa, but not yet much focus on what's different between different individual humans.

M. Robertson

Entomologist

University of the Witwatersrand

South Africa

A Several compounds produced by people attract mosquitoes, many through perspiration. The relative quantities and combinations of these chemicals seem to have a bearing. These are determined by the metabolism of the individual, based upon factors such as genetics, age, and physical activity. …

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