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15 Mosquito Facts That Will Haunt Your Dreams

Mosquitoes are more likely to bite if you drink beer.

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Welcome to mosquito season, folks! Let's learn a bit more about our bloodsucking friends, shall we?

BuzzFeed spoke with Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist who's been studying mosquitoes, among other things, at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University, and we asked the most important mosquito questions we could think of. Here's what we learned:

1. Only girl mosquitoes do the actual biting and bloodsucking.

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"Only girl mosquitoes bite us, and they use the blood not for nutrition for themselves, but mostly for their eggs," Vosshall said. "A female mosquito can live its whole life in the lab or in nature on sugar or plant nectar, respectively, only she will not produce any eggs. So each bite gives the mosquito female the fuel to produce another 100 mosquitoes."

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2. And without our blood, they wouldn't be able to make baby mosquitoes.

"No blood, no new baby mosquitoes." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

3. The perception that wearing dark clothing makes you more appealing to mosquitoes is probably true.

Will Varner / BuzzFeed

Vosshall said this rumor is "probably" true. "Mosquitoes can see, but they are not going to museums to look at art. Their eyes can detect movement and contrast. So if you pop out of the background by wearing contrasting clothing, and if you move, you will attract them."

4. But there's no evidence to suggest that certain foods make your blood more or less desirable to the flying vampires.

"That's a folktale, with little science to back it up," Vosshall said. "Not to say that it might not be true, just no evidence either way."

5. Your pets are not safe from mosquito bites. 😿

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"The mosquitoes that spread dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya are called Aedes aegypti — they will pick humans over any other animal," Vosshall explained. "If there are no humans, they will bite other mammals. Same story for the malaria mosquito known as Anopheles gambiae. There are other types of mosquitoes that bite anything, probably including pets, birds, farm animals, etc."

6. If you think mosquitoes bite you because you "taste sweet," you might be right...

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"This is one of the most popular folktales about mosquito bites. There is no strong evidence for glucose in blood per se, but the concept that some people are more attractive than others is 100% true."

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7. ...and it could be genetic!

"We are working on this fascinating problem," Vosshall said. "James Logan from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene recently published a twin study that suggested a genetic component. Nobody really knows, and everybody is dying to know. We are working on it!"

8. If a mosquito is desperate for blood, it will find a way through your clothes.

Will Varner / BuzzFeed

"Mosquitoes can puncture denim if they are sufficiently desperate, but will go for exposed skin," Vosshall explained.

9. But there's hope: You can become immune to mosquito bites...if you're bitten enough.

Vosshall, who works closely with mosquitoes, is now immune to their bites because she's been bitten so often. "Immune tolerance develops within a few weeks," she said. "I barely notice the bites anymore — even hundreds of bites per arm — I have little or no itchiness or redness."

10. If you are itching, it's because of what's in a female mosquito's spit.

"The female needs a few minutes to fully fill up with blood, so her spit contains some key things that trigger an itchy immune reaction in your skin," Vosshall said. "She puts in anticoagulants so that your blood flows, and also a local anesthetic so that you don't sense that she is feeding. The first moment that most people realize they have been bitten is when the mosquito 'pulls out' and is on her way off with your blood."

11. There's no foolproof way to prevent a bite, but there are some methods to protect yourself:

Will Varner / BuzzFeed

“If you are in an area with mosquitoes, try to organize your time outdoors when they are not around," Vosshall said. "They usually appear midmorning and midafternoon. You rarely see them around lunchtime and never after dark.”

Other ways to shield from bites? Wear a lot of clothing! “Covered skin is less likely to be bitten. So if you wear a nice floor-length light caftan, you will be more protected than in a bikini,” she said. “And lastly, purchase and use a topical insect repellent with DEET or picaridin as an active ingredient. You need to apply these sprays to all exposed skin… Just like with sunscreen, the higher the percent of active ingredient, the less you have to apply: 7% Deet lasts two hours, 25% Deet lasts eight hours. For children i recommend 15% Deet and under. The botanical agents mostly do not work.”

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12. Hot water, after-bite wipes, and hydrocortisone cream can make the bite itch less.

"Some things that work for me and other lab members are to run the body part under extremely hot water right after you are bitten — for reasons that are unclear it is very effective at stopping the itching and minimizing the immune response," Vosshall said. "It might be that the hot water substitutes one very painful stimulus for another. Or that the very hot water denatures the mosquito proteins injected into your skin, thereby reducing the chance that you get a huge immune response at the bite site."

Other options are after-bite wipes, that contain some local anesthetic, and 1% hydrocortisone cream. Above all other things: DON'T SCRATCH!

13. Even if you occasionally wish mosquitoes would vanish, they do good things, too, like providing food for bats and birds.

Will Varner / BuzzFeed

"They provide food for bats and birds as flying adults, and for frogs and fish as larvae in the water," Vosshall said. "They may also do a little plant pollination."

14. The most deadly species of mosquitoes are called Anopheles gambiae.

"Most deadly are Anopheles gambiae because malaria is the most deadly disease that mosquitoes spread. Or Aedes aegypti because there are no vaccines or medicines to help with dengue in chikungunya. Or Aedes albopictus, Asian tiger mosquitoes, because they are a nuisance and bite all day long. Or Culex because they spread West Nile virus," she said. "I could go on."

15. Drinking beer makes you more attractive to mosquitoes (and it might be getting them drunk, too!).

Will Varner / BuzzFeed

"There is one nice study showing that people are more attractive when they have drunk a pint of beer than a pint of water," Vosshall said. "We don't really know why that is. Probably something about the body odor changes that makes you seem more ready to be bitten. Insects are definitely susceptible to the effects of alcohol, and it's a fun idea to think about this affecting mosquitoes."

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