Almost everyone gets a few bug bites during the 4th of July weekend, but some people spend more of their summer nights swatting away mosquitoes than others. According to Jill Richardson in this article from Salon, the chemicals in your skin may be to blame.
A study from 2000 found that there are 346 chemicals involved in the scent of human hands, and 277 of them can attract mosquitoes. A key scent seems to be l-lactic acid, which can explain why mosquitoes prefer some people to others. Some people actually carry the right combination of chemicals that naturally repels mosquitoes.
When it comes to mosquitoes carrying malaria – not a big problem in the United States – the bacteria in foot odor is the most attractive, and mosquitoes will even go after limburger cheese, which smells like feet.
But how to avoid those pesky mosquitoes this summer? If you’re uncomfortable using DEET (though newer studies show little in the way of health risks from small amounts of the stuff) a recent study suggests using lemon eucalyptus oil to repel mosquitoes.
This video from Discovery in 2009 goes a little more in-depth about mosquitoes and scent, and the efforts of scientists the repel mosquitoes: