Although the annoying nature of mosquitoes is largely indisputable, there are still a lot of questions that tend to crop up when it comes to these notorious biting bugs.
For example, what causes the mosquito bite allergy resulting in red bumps that so many of us experience? Also, what is the best mosquito repellent for different situations?
Lastly, and most importantly for this article, what is it about our feet and ankles that are so irresistible to mosquitoes?
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Us?
Before we get deeper into the specifics of why mosquitoes opt for certain areas of our body above others, we must first establish a baseline of mosquito knowledge. While most of us know the itch of a mosquito bite all too well, we might not understand exactly why it is that those little bloodsuckers, well, suck blood.
Some other types of bugs might turn to stings as a method of self-defense; mosquitoes are different. Instead, they operate more like bed bugs. The kinds of bugs that bite us are always female mosquitoes.
This is because only female mosquitoes need nutrients to grow and lay their eggs. Unfortunately, our blood is the perfect formula for them. So, while other bugs might only sting when provoked, a mosquito will go ahead and bite you anytime it is feeling peckish.
How Do Mosquitoes Bite?
Chances are that you have noticed mosquitoes have a long appendage on the front of their head (possibly before you squished it). This appendage is known as a proboscis, and it essentially functions as a straw with a sharp end to pierce the skin.
When a mosquito bites you, it sucks up blood and then uses its saliva to prevent your blood from clotting, possibly trapping the insect in the process.
Once the mosquito has done its dirty work, it flies off to lay eggs and continue this deeply unpleasant cycle.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
Oftentimes, people are both especially surprised and put off by the addition of the mosquito’s saliva. After all, the mosquito has already taken our blood. Did it really have to leave a souvenir?
This unfortunate gift gets even worse when you consider that it is the mosquito saliva that our bodies hate. Essentially, a human body perceives the mosquito’s saliva as a foreign entity.
As a result, the immune system goes after it to try to stop the intrusion. It is the production of histamine by your immune system that leads to itchiness and discomfort and swelling and redness. This can lead to hives and welts.
You might recognize the word “histamine,” possibly because you are used to seeing an “anti” in front of it. An over-the-counter antihistamine such as hydrocortisone can treat allergic reactions. Unfortunately, such treatments may have unpleasant side effects.
Luckily, there are a wide array of natural alternatives and home remedies that are both effective and safe in terms of mosquito repellent and easing itchiness.
Why Are Mosquitoes Such Big Fans of Our Feet and Ankles?
Now that our crash course on the basics of mosquitoes is complete, let’s get into some more specifics. Whether you were hanging out in your yard or have the audacity to be near some standing water such as birdbaths, you have likely experienced this phenomenon firsthand (or first foot).
You were sure to put on long sleeves and long pants, but the mosquitoes seem to flock to you anyway. Despite there being areas of you that were certainly easier to reach, you end up with a plethora of bug bites on your ankles and on your feet.
What is it about our feet that seem to attract these pests?
Unlike Us, They Like It When We Smell
Do not take it personally, but mosquitoes are often attracted to specific people based on their smell. This is why they are so attracted to the parts of us that are traditionally considered to be smellier. This especially applies to our feet and ankles, but this principle also holds true when it comes to our armpits.
Scientists do not quite understand why, but it has also become clear through research that mosquitoes prefer to feed on humans than other species. They just prefer our smell. Lucky us!
Carbon Dioxide Smells Delicious (to Mosquitoes)
Besides just our enticing smells, mosquitoes are also very attracted to carbon dioxide. They actually have sensors inside of their mouths that help them determine what areas of our bodies have the highest concentration of carbon dioxide.
By detecting carbon dioxide, the mosquito receives information that this is likely either a human or animal that could serve as a great meal.
How Can You Prevent Mosquito Bites Naturally?
There are a lot of reasons that we should all want to repel mosquitoes and prevent them from biting us. For one thing, it is no secret that the itchiness we feel for days afterward is an unpleasant side effect that no one wants to deal with. Plus, many other possible downsides come along with being bitten.
Although they are rare depending on where you are located, multiple diseases can be carried and transmitted using mosquitoes as their hosts. The yellow fever mosquito (also known as the “Aedes aegypti”) can carry and spread diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and the Zika virus.
Meanwhile, other kinds of mosquitoes are more likely to carry incredibly dangerous diseases such as the West Nile virus and malaria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The CDC) reports that transmitting malaria does not harm the mosquito itself, but it can cause devastating symptoms in humans.
Use Mosquito Repellent Patches
Avoiding mosquito bites is essential so that you and your family can have only the best of adventures.
Hate sticky and smelly bug sprays? We’ve got your back (or, well, your feet). The BuzzPatch utilizes a special blend of totally natural essential oils to resist mosquitoes for good. These patches are both safe and effective for kids and adults alike.
Surround Yourself With Plants That Organically Repel Mosquitoes
In addition to using patches and essential oils, there are also many lovely plants that can be harnessed for their mosquito repelling properties. Herbs such as rosemary and basil can help, as can the delightfully fragrant mint and lavender. You can use these in the form of diluted essential oils or in their full plant form.
For maximum effect, you can place these plants near stagnant bodies of water. After all, this is where mosquitoes most typically breed and lay their eggs. If you use a natural insect repellent to force them away, they will have to find somewhere else to go about their business.
Hopefully, it will be somewhere far, far away from you.
One Step at a Time
Mosquitoes — we love to hate them, but we do not necessarily hate to love them. Generally speaking, people do not experience anything having to do with love at all when mosquitoes are in the mix.
Depending on who you ask, the only constant is change, or the only certainties are death and taxes. Upon further review, perhaps these flying pests should have been added to the list.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch and Swell Up? | Medical News Today
Yellow Fever Mosquito – Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus) | University of Florida