Dr. David Hepburn:
I take my Aunt Bertha with me to a lot of functions, specifically outdoor functions.
“Wow she must be cool!”
Well no, not really. She’s 5’3” tall and 5’4” across. She sweats like an artesian well and her dentures have a life of their own. But mosquitoes love her and always select her over me. So I dress her up in a dark muumuu and take her with me to BBQ’s and bonfires. When I go snipe hunting at night, I get her to hold the “flashlight” for me. She is my own personal citronella coil. For those of you who think this is mercenary of me, buzzzzz off. Keep in mind that she gets free burgers and plenty of exercise slapping at her neck and ankles.
Why are some people mosquito magnets while others, like myself, are so completely repulsive? Bertha is among the 20 percent of people who are high attractor types, not to be confused with highly attractive types. Noting that Bertha is rather Rubenesque and tends to give off a pong like a hockey bag in a Phoenix summer, mosquitoes, who typically will hone in on dark, odiferous objects, salivate when she is in the area.
The main smell that attracts these flying syringes is CO2, better known as what my sons like to power their BB guns with, prior to firing them indiscriminately in the direction of the neighbor’s greenhouse. Those with higher metabolic rates produce more carbon dioxide, as do larger people and pregnant women. In addition, other smells, emanating from: estrogen, exercise-induced lactic acid and even acetone from your breath, mark you as a good landing spot. Your body temperature, or warmth can make it worse. Mosquitoes may flock to pregnant women because of their extra body heat.
Here are a few other fascinating facts for dinnertime discussion tonight, should that discussion tend in the direction of mosquitoes, the tax man or other blood sucking pests.
-Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet.
-Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth.
-Mosquitoes are more attracted to women than to men, particularly ovulating women.
-Given the choice, mosquitoes would usually rather bite a blonde. Absolutely true! In fact, my blonde friend, aware of this, bought a large scarf for a recent bonfire. (She returned it later saying that it was too tight.)
-Mosquitoes like to aim for moving targets. The Maple Leafs are bite-free.
-Biting increases 500 times during a full moon so… reduce your full moons under a full moon.
-When female mosquitoes drink blood, they leave a small puddle of urine on their victim’s skin. Adds a little insult to injury.
-Only females make that annoying high pitched sound. Mosquitoes too.
-The more times you get bitten by a particular species of mosquito, the less you’ll react to that species over time. Great? There’s more than 3,000 species worldwide.
-Garlic mosquito repellant is fairly effective. Also significantly reduces vampire attacks.
-Mosquito zappers may be popular, but they very rarely capture mosquitoes.
-Mosquito traps that are most successful are those which emanate the same odors, CO2, octenol, heat as Bertha. Personally I just use Bertha herself, adding “You would look absolutely incredible as a blonde. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”
-Even though they seem to move quickly, the average mosquito can only fly up to 1.5 miles per hour. The one exception is the one, obviously into the Red Bull, that spent the entire night in my tent last week at approximately 1500 mph.
-Most mosquito species can only fly about 300 feet before they need to rest. They leave you, fly 150 feet, turn around and 150 feet later, stop for a rest.
-A mosquito flaps it’s wings between 400 and 700 times per second. Ralph Swanson, the man who counted these flaps will attest to this if you talk to him up at the sanitorium. I stop in and see him when… I go to pick up Bertha.