The Buzz on Bug Bites

Picture this: You’re at a backyard BBQ, talking with group of friends. Every few minutes, you feel a sting or hear an ominous buzzing noise and you know you’re being eaten alive by bugs. But — nobody else seems to be bothered. It’s as if you’re wearing a big neon sign that reads “BUFFET IS OPEN!” But you’re not… right?

Maybe you are.

It turns out that some people are just more attractive to bugs like mosquitoes and ticks. For example, mosquitoes are drawn to people with high concentrations of cholesterol or steroids on the surface of their skin. They also like people who produce more uric and lactic acids. (1) Both mosquitoes and ticks are attracted by carbon dioxide and show a marked preference for Type O blood over Types A and B. (24) There could also be a genetic factor at play: 85% of humans produce a secretion that essentially advertises their blood type. It turns out mosquitoes are more attracted to this group of people no matter their blood type. (2)

Passion for Fashion?

Both mosquitoes and ticks can see color – and have preferences! People wearing dark colors like navy, black, and red are more recognizable to mosquitoes, while ticks lean towards light colors. (4,5)

Go Incognito

A few natural ways to dim that neon sign are:

  • STOP! The less you move around, the less carbon dioxide and lactic acid you will produce. (1)
  • Be CLEAN. The cleaner you are and the less sweat you have on your body, the less attractive you are to biting bugs. (6)
  • Avoid certain FOODS. Uric acid is produced when our bodies digest certain foods like anchovies, dried beans and peas, and beer (uh-oh!). (7)
  • Wear DARK clothing to avoid ticks. Additionally, clothing with built-in tick repellant is quite effective. (8)
  • Wear LIGHT clothing to avoid mosquitoes.


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Kristin Hanratty

Kristin Hanratty grew up in Wayne and has lived and worked as an editor in the Philadelphia area for more than 10 years. Kristin enjoys any combination of the following: good food, passable wine, cozy mysteries, and baking for friends and family.