So I feel a little awkward asking you this but…do you often have this feeling you just can’t shake that someone, somewhere is out to get you? Does it seem like trouble follows you wherever you go? I know your friends and family think you’re paranoid (I’ve heard them talking) but listen, I believe you. There is an ancient evil lurking in the shadows that is out to get all of us and it is a fraction of a centimeter in size. That’s right, I am talking about mosquitoes, the phantom buzz in your ear that wakes you on summer nights, those bite-sized bio-terrorists that have spread disease over the millennia. I know what you’re saying, “what does this have to do with physiology? Have you been drinking?” No, but thank you for asking. The truth is some of us DO get singled out by these tiny demons more than others. What is it about us that draws them to us like…little old ladies to a yard sale…no wait, like a wrestling team to half-priced burger night? Let’s talk some physiology!
Know the Enemy
Once upon a time called 170 million years ago a family of tiny flies (Culicidae) made a bold, annoying, adaptive leap in their evolution. It discovered an inexhaustible, readily accessible food source, human blood, and they’ve been tailgating our cookouts for as long as we’ve been drawing doodles on cave walls. That’s right, they are flies, meaning that they have an additional set of modified wings along their metathorax (oh, you care). Of course, there are more species of mosquito than YouTube Harlem shake videos but one characteristic they all seem to share is that the females are the blood drinkers. They have hungry mouths to feed after all, hundreds of tiny eggs that they can lay on the surface of still, stagnant water. Their versatility is our problem. Mosquito larva are aquatic and don’t require large ponds to spawn. In fact, their breeding sites can range from ponds to plastic kiddie pools, to a neglected paint bucket left out in the rain. The point is mosquitos are opportunists who will go after the easiest meal they can get and let’s face it..we’re pretty easy.
But why me?!
Oh if you want theories I’ve got theories, but how about we stick to statistics for now. They seem to prefer pregnant women, obese individuals, and adults over children. Mosquitoes are tiny beings flying around in an enormous space. They use their sense of smell, sensitivity to movement, and Jedi mind powers (aka unknown factors) to detect our body heat, movement, and CO2 production. Adults produce more CO2 and conserve more heat than children. Of course, some people naturally have higher body temperatures and children are constantly in motion so it really depends on who is hiking with you. Pregnant women also produce more CO2, their body heat spikes, and they have an increase in the amount of circulating blood. Mosquitoes also love us after a good workout. They have a demonic sense of smell and many compounds such as lactic acid are excreted in our sweat that draw them in like a terriyaki
marinade. Our body heat also spikes when we workout but I didn’t have to tell you that.
They also seem to have a preference for blood type. People like myself with type O blood are far more likely to get bitten (mama told me I was special). If you’ll recall, type O blood cells lack the surface antigens A or B. The absence of those antigens or “O” is how it get’s it’s name. Why don’t you meditate on that for a while.
Studies have also shown that blood cholesterol levels are a factor which is just another reason to skip that drive-thru on the way home and stick to your New Year’s resolutions…that’s right, we all heard you.
Stay curious, stay classy, and never stop learning my friends 🙂