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What Attracts Mosquitoes to People?

Reading time: 7 minutes

Mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance. They often carry serious diseases, including potentially deadly infections like West Nile Virus, Malaria, and Zika Virus. Since just one bite can transmit an infection, mosquito pest control is critical.

Understanding why mosquitoes choose their hosts is a great place to start when learning how to keep mosquitoes away. We explore what attracts mosquitoes to people and what steps you can take to avoid getting bit.

Zoomed picture of a mosquito on human skin
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Top Things That Attract Mosquitoes

Knowing what mosquitoes are naturally drawn to can help you take steps to protect yourself. Mosquitoes tend to be most attracted to:

Carbon Dioxide

Mosquitoes are sensitive to sources of carbon dioxide since highly concentrated areas of CO2 are more likely to be from a human or animal host. On average, humans are at a higher risk of mosquito exposure than animals since they expel around 500 litres of carbon dioxide per day, according to BBC Science Focus Magazine.

Only female mosquitoes require a blood meal to help them produce eggs, so they tend to actively search for clouds of CO2 in hopes that dinner is nearby. Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar.

Body Odour and Heat

Mosquito on a screen
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Once a mosquito has detected a source of carbon dioxide, it uses its sense of smell and sophisticated thermal sensors to find the best place to bite. This is usually where the skin is thinnest on the body, like the ankles, inner elbows, and neck.

If you’ve just finished working out, you’re especially attractive to mosquitoes due to the increase in perspiration and more blood reaching the surface of your skin. If you’ve ever noticed that you’re most susceptible to mosquito bites when being active outside, this is likely why.


Mosquitoes breed in quiet, wet areas like ponds, drainage ditches, and other places with standing water. If you have things like bird baths or rain barrels around your home, these essentially work like magnets to attract mosquitoes that are ready to lay eggs and continue their life cycle.

If you’re outside and want to have drinking water with you, make sure that it’s in a sealed bottle with a lid or flip top that allows it to be completely closed when not in use. Avoid bringing out open cups of water on hot days, as they might attract mosquitoes looking for a drink.

Blood Type

Did you know that people with certain blood types are more likely to attract mosquitoes than others? According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in 2004, it was discovered that people with type O blood are almost 37% more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than people with type A blood.


Pregnant people are more susceptible to mosquito bites than the average person, but generally for the same reasons listed above. With a baby on board, the body increases its temperature and blood volume, producing more mosquito-attracting carbon dioxide and sweat.


According to a French study published in 2010, mosquitoes were 30% more attracted to men who drank beer compared to men who consumed the same amount of water. Unfortunately, the study was limited to only 43 men and no women. There were also no other types of alcohol tested. That said, it’s wise to take extra precautions against mosquitoes when drinking alcohol anyway.

Dark Colours

According to a 2022 study published in Nature Communications, mosquitoes prefer dark colours like black, navy, and dark brown. Researchers also indicated that mosquitoes were secondarily attracted to the colours red and orange, likely because this is what human skin looks like to them.

Certain Scents

The scent of certain acids, many of which are produced in the human body and some kinds of cheese, is another mosquito attractant. Carboxylic acids, like those found in Limburger cheese, are the byproduct of bacteria naturally present on human skin. Although people don't have sensitive enough olfactory systems to smell the bacteria waste, mosquitoes do.

Salt, Potassium, and Lactic Acid

Mosquitoes are also more attracted to sweat, which contains high salt, potassium, and lactic acid concentrations. For example, if you're eating a lot of bananas or salty foods, you're likely to notice more mosquitoes flying around you.

Some creams and lotions are also made with lactic acid. While these can be good for your skin, avoiding using them before going outside is best.

Shady Areas

If you have a shaded backyard, you’re more likely to have mosquito problems. Mosquitoes need cool, dark areas to retreat to when it’s too hot outside. Trees, bushes, gazebos, and underneath patio umbrellas are just a few of the ideal resting places for these tiny vampires.

Food Left Outdoors

Leftover food in plates outdoors
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Most insects are attracted to food outdoors, and mosquitoes are no different. If you’re camping or having a picnic outside, you can expect to have more of them to deal with. Keeping your food covered as much as possible or eating inside a tent or screened area can help.

The Full Moon

Full Moon Cloudy Night
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Vampires aren’t the only supernatural creatures that mosquitoes have something in common with. Like werewolves, mosquitoes come out with force during the full moon.

In a 2019 podcast recorded by Dr. Mirielle Marcotte for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), she revealed that during a full moon, mosquitoes bite up to 500% more than at any other time. However, Dr. Marcotte also says the reason why isn't clear.

How to Prevent Mosquito Bites

Because a single mosquito bite can transmit disease, being proactive about mosquito prevention is crucial for outdoor safety during the spring and summer.

While you can’t change your blood type or stop breathing, you can do a few things to discourage mosquitoes from landing on you.

Here are some steps to take the next time you head outside.

Remove Standing Water from Your Property

Regularly check your property for holes or uneven ground where rain can pool and put buckets, toys, and other objects that can collect water inside.

Avoid Going Out During Certain Times of the Day

Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so these are great times to stay inside and enjoy a meal or play a game.

Use Physical Barriers

Mosquito screen on a window
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Screens and netting can prevent mosquitoes from entering through doors and windows so they can’t enter your home. You can also use netting around beds, cribs, and tables for even greater protection.

Avoid Using Scented Soaps and Perfumes

Remember that a mosquito’s sense of smell is much more attuned to scents commonly found in soaps and perfumes, even if they don’t smell like anything to you. If you plan to be outside at any point, it’s best to shower with unscented soap and use scent-free lotions, sunscreens, and other products.

Shower Before Going Outdoors

Washing sweat and bacteria off your skin with plain soap before you go outside can help reduce the number of mosquitoes that can find you.

Wear Light-Coloured Clothing

Since wearing dark colours can attract mosquitoes, wearing light colours can help keep them away. Lighter colours reflect more light and are less ideal landing places for mosquitoes, so more of them may avoid you.

Eat More Garlic and Onions

Onions and Garlic at the farmer's market
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Just like eating bananas can make you more attractive to mosquitoes, eating spicy foods they are aversion to, like onions and garlic, can make you less attractive.

Use an Appropriate Insect Repellent

Products containing DEET are particularly effective against mosquitoes and Lyme disease-carrying ticks, but these contain potentially harmful ingredients to humans and should be used cautiously.

Health Canada recommends that adults and children over 12 use products with no more than 30% DEET. Children between the ages of 2 and 12 should use insect repellents with no more than 10% DEET and should not apply more than 3 times per day.

Children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years can also use products with up to 10% DEET, but it shouldn't be applied more than 1 time per day. Health Canada warns against using products containing DEET for children less than 6 months of age.

What Not to Use

Not all mosquito control methods work. The McGill University Office for Science and Society suggests that sonic insect repellers, mosquito zappers, B vitamins, citrus plants, and scent-based traps are less likely to work and best to avoid. Bracelets and spot treatments are also ineffective since mosquitoes can easily fly around these areas and find somewhere else to bite.

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Buzz Boss’ expert exterminators use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to reduce mosquito populations without harming non-target species so your yard stays free from these disease-carrying insects.

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