Myth or Fact? #14 - Mosquitoes prefer people with sweet blood

in science •  3 years ago  (edited)

Welcome dear Steemians to another episode of Myth or Fact! Consider the following scenario (actually happened quite often to me):

You lie in bed trying to fall asleep while letting your mind wander. At about the time you was drifting off to sleep there was this horrible noise. Your eyes went wide and you are alarmed: mosquitoes!
The humming is such an annoying sound that you jump out of bed to turn on the light and prepare for hunt.

Sounds like horror, no? Then again I have friends who say they never get bitten and we try to find out why. The only reason we found out is that mosquitoes prefer people with sweet blood. Am I sweet? Is this the reason?

Let's investigate!

The real vampires

Fig.1: Female mosquito Source

There are over 3500 different mosquito species (culicidae) worldwide. They occur everywhere and are home on every place except the polar regions and deserts. After fertilization the females consume blood of their hosts to supply their eggs with nutrition. This is why male mosquito won’t bite you but females do.

To penetrate the host's skin they are equipped with specific mouthparts which consist of three main parts (upper lip/labrum, jaw/mandible and maxilla as well as the throat/hypopharynx) which are illustrated in the image below.

Fig.2: Mourtparts of (A) grasshopper (B) bee (C) butterfly(D) mosquito Source

The throat has two tubes of which one injects saliva and the other sucks blood. The video below shows how the mouthparts work under the skin of a mouse (in vivo). During the time the eggs are not fertilized the females feed themselves just like the males with plant sap.

Although they suck out blood you won't bleed out since it's only a tiny amount. However there are other dangers that come with mosquitoes. Depending on the previous host mosquitoes carry dangerous pathogens that can lead to malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, Zika and much more.

There are similar looking insects that however are not mosquitoes and don’t suck blood. For instance gnats (tipulidae). So if you see one of these don’t be afraid.

Fig.3: Similar to mosquiotes but are gnats Source

Why does the bite itch?

Unfortunately we didn’t find the vicious mosquito and woke up with itching bites. To disclose the myth: it is not how sweet your blood is, it is how you smell. Your smell and skin temperature is what mosquitoes do differentiate. They prefer smooth skin and sweat. How we smell is determined by our nutrition and genes. Women generally have a warmer skin than men (So better sleep next to a woman, they will then bite her).

The actual bite is not painful because their mouthparts are so tiny that they won’t always hit a nerve and secondly they inject a pain-relieving agent with their saliva. With the saliva come many other different substances (proteins) that our immune system doesn’t like. It releases histamine which leads to an allergic reaction. The result is a swelling, redness and itching.

By scratching the swelling you only spread the saliva and our body reacts by releasing even more histamine which makes the whole worse. The best you can do after you got bit is to cool the swelling which reduces the symptoms.

Thanks for taking time to read my article! Do you have a suggestions for the next Myth or Fact? Feel free to leave a comment.
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I found I mostly got bitten when drinking, but you tend to sweat more when drinking so that concurs with your post

I know this too, beer and white wine are particularly bad

Interesting, some friends told me that as well.

Hmm,very scary myth..if mosquitoes prefer people with sweet blood, what about drink or eat something that can make our blood not sweet any more, something like bitter tea, can it prevent mosquito bites us ?..just the way, great share @timsaid..

This is so cool and interesting! Follow you for more!

Thanks for following!

Very nice job and interesting post about mosquitoes. I know someone who was studying the protein composition of mosquitoes mouths (well of the whole proboscis), and I learned more than I wanted to know about the pieces that make them up.

I think we never can know enough right? Knowledge is the key to all doors :) Thanks for your time justtryme90, always a pleasure to see you

Aha...I always believed the myth...The mosquitoes always went after my wife rather than me...I helped perpetuate the myth, telling her it was because she was sweeter. Upvoted!

Hope she doesn't read my post. Keep telling her she's sweet. Women love that :)

LOL...I do!

Yes, it's a horror story! Happened to me twice in the past week. And you can never find the little blighters, even with light or a torch. The first time I got bitten 3 times. Last night I think I must have accidentally hit it while flailing about, cos no new bites.

Did you think about using a spray or something else? If you don't have strong itching I suggest you let them drink your blood lol. You are supporting nature :')

I took one for the team then :-)

Well, I don't know about sweet blood. But having consumed a chunk of raw garlic every day for the last six months or so. I'm looking forward to finding out if that helps. Because I have always been a favorite target of mosquitoes. I have a feeling that it's not going to make a difference. My feeling is that because I'm O positive and therefore a universal donor, the mosquitoes think they have a right to my blood.

Well 0 positive makes your blood precious, I bet mosquitoes love it! :)

All I know is that everyone around me could be getting bit and I'm like, "Why So Serious?"

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

I must naturally repel mosquitos for I am rarely bitten. I remember going for a nature walk with a girlfriend of mine; she was a walking buffet for them yet I remained relatively bite free. She was NOT happy for neither of us used any kind of repellent but you wouldn't have known by my getting out of there unscathed lol

Did you know that those mosquito swarms we see in nature are mainly made up of males?

No I didn't... but the females are the ones that bite and those are the ones that found my friend ... lucky her lol

For a catchy title, you sure got me in, right away! Thanks for the information, it is well done. Upvoted! All for one and one for all!!! Namaste :)