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


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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