I’m really loving this warm September weather. And guess who else is loving these last, lingering days of summer? The local mosquito population! When I step outside, if there’s a mosquito within miles, it will start heading in my direction — as will all of its brothers and sisters — eagerly anticipating a delicious snack.
If there were a Michelon Guide for mosquitoes, I’d get a 4 star review:
“Fragrant! Warm! Delicious! With just a hint of salt!”
I’m what’s technically known among entomologists — the folks who (inexplicably) devote themselves to studying insects — as a “mosquito magnet.”
“One in ten people are highly attractive to mosquitoes,“ reports Jerry Butler, PhD emeritus at the University of Florida, on WebMD.
It’s a scientific fact — some folks are more attractive to the pesky little blood suckers than others.
And some are less. My ex-husband was a mosquito repellent. Whenever we spent time together in the Great Outdoors, I’d end up covered with bites, and he wouldn’t have a single one. I could stand next to Rick and actually see the bugs flying past him to get to me.
Why, from a mosquitoes point of view, are some of us thin gruel, while others are a gourmet feast? Body chemistry.
Emit lots of carbon dioxide, researchers have found, and mosquitoes will crave you. Pregnant women are more attractive, as are people drinking alcohol. Also irresistible? People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin’s surface. The little varmints also target people who produce excess amounts of certain acids, such as uric acid.
It’s not just your chemistry. It’s also your clothing. Mosquitoes, apparently, are drawn to dark clothes. Still, I’m not about to abandon my closet full of lovely Eileen Fisher grays and blacks and start wearing pastels.
Instead, over time, I’ve learned some coping skills. When I’m outdoors, I keep moving. It’s harder for The Enemy to attack a moving target. Stop and smell the roses? No can do. If I pause, even for a moment, I’m brunch.
When my neighbor Deb invites me onto her lusciously landscaped porch for a chat, I’ll turn her down. Two minutes in that bug-rich environment and I’m a goner.
“I can light a citronella candle!” she’ll offer.
Alas, the power of citronella can’t hold a candle to my overwhelming mosquito magnetism.
The way mosquitoes perceive me has affected the way I see the world around me. Others see a still pool of water and think, “How lovely!”
I think “Natural mosquito breeding spot!”
A beautiful park with lots of flowering shrubs?
In those shrubs are lots of hungry bugs.
I’ve learned to avoid doing anything that involves sitting around outdoors. For instance? Picnics. Eating outside just provides the bug population with a splendid opportunity to eat ME. A lovely outdoor cocktail party? To the mosquito, a schmorgas bord. And I’m the tastiest morsel on display.
If I must party outdoors, I’ll cover myself from head to toe. I always attend my next door neighbor’s festive summer picnics in long sleeves, long pants, a turtleneck and socks. (When I tried, just once, to go without socks, my ankles were decimated.)
If only bug desirability were something that one outgrew. You’ve heard of so-called Middle-aged invisibility? When we women reach a certain age, rather than continuing to draw the male gaze, we become invisible. I’d be fine with that if it applied to mosquitoes too.
Wouldn’t it be great if, upon reaching 60, my body chemistry changed, and the bugs finally went after somebody else?
Instead, bugs, unlike the rest of the world, are apparently going to find me hot forever.
Mosquitoes have been around for 170 million years. They aren’t going anywhere. Clearly, it’s up to me to adapt.
So if you want to chat with me, I’ll be the picnic guest in the Hazmat suit.
(This piece first appeared in Zestnow.)