Those Little Buggers

Ah, fall. One of my absolute favorite times of year. The leaves changing color, the cooling weather, and the anticipation of another year of school get me excited. The thing I love most of all, though, is this: the mosquitoes go away.

I think one thing almost everyone can agree on is hating mosquitoes. Other than serving as food for birds, bats, and bigger insects, they don’t do much else than annoy us to death. Every spring, I wait in dread of the day they return, once again, to constantly hover around my body until I have more red bumps than a kid with a severe case of acne.

And another thing. I’ve often asked myself: why do I have a hundred mosquitoes buzzing around my entire body while the guy next to me is skeeter-free? I’ve always been puzzled and slightly irked by this. There has to be some reason why I and other people are mosquito magnets and everyone else seems to have built-in bug spray. As it turns out, a certain chemical that gives off a specific scent is how mosquitoes know you’re not only fit for biting, but will also make a scrumptious treat, so even if someone is closer to mosquitoes than you, they may go for you instead just because you smell good. Must be a compliment.

Know what else annoys me? How easy it is for them to find me. When I’m outside, one minute I’m mosquito-free, the next I couldn’t be further from that. Surely they can’t see with their eyes like people do; they’re insects, so they have compound eyes that don’t function like human eyes very much at all.

Apparently, mosquitoes have extremely sensitive smell, and carbon dioxide is the signal that tips off when a human is nearby. Even if you’re up to fifty meters away, they’ll scent a continuous flow of carbon dioxide coming from you and fly in for the bite. It’s a lot more complex than you may think.

Not only are they annoying, but they can be dangerous too. Sometimes mosquitoes, especially smaller ones, carry severe diseases like malaria, West Nile, yellow fever, and the dengue virus, which can make people deathly ill. I’ve always wondered just how the little guys carry and spread these diseases, and why there outbreaks in places like Africa, Asia, and South America, but not in places like North Dakota. I also wondered why one outbreak would happen on one side of the world and a second one nowhere near the first one. It’s odd, isn’t it?

I found out that both climate and population characteristics are a big factor; most places where breakouts happen are hotter and more densely populated with people than North Dakota, and those two things together will almost always lower the sanitation level as well.

So, as you can see, as much as you may hate the winged bloodsuckers that seem to be everywhere, you have to admit that they’re pretty cool.

Some questions to conclude:

Why do some people get swarmed by mosquitoes, while other people are left alone entirely?

How do you think mosquitoes carry and transmit diseases?

Why would carbon dioxide be a great indicator that a human is nearby?

4 thoughts on “Those Little Buggers

  1. I hate mosquitos, but luckily I have not encountered many this year. I will answer your last question. The reason why Carbon dioxide is a good indicater of humans nearby is, humans exhale CO2. Now, I know you may be thinking that humans just inhale and exhale air. Although that is true, it is air, inside the air are gases which are invisible to the naked eye.67 These gases are made up of different elements. These elements include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other gases. Mosquitos tend to suck on animals. Animals inhale and use the oxygen. Animals release CO2, which the mosquito can sense. To learn more about the chemical composition of air go to
    -Ross Wicklund

  2. Luckily, I find myself to be a port of the population who just isn’t bothered much by mosquitos. But if they bother you so much, Mr. Jordan, it could be that you have type O blood. People with type O blood emit chemical markers through their skin which attracts mosquitos. It was found that people with O blood are 24% more likely to be attacked by mosquitos. Others more likely to be attacked are those who are pregnant, have a high body temperature, or have been consuming alcohol (hopefully you are none of these Jordan). Though outbreaks of mosquito spread disease are significantly fewer in areas like North Dakota, we are not completly immune. There were four recorded cases of West Nile virus in North Dakota in 2011.

  3. This is a pretty neat subject. I as well hate mosquitoes and wish they would all die. But mosquitoes are a major part in the food chain. Without them frogs and other animals that eat mosquitoes would have nothing to eat and eventually die. Starting with the first question, I think it is because of what your scent gives off. For instance a person with bug spray on smells bad and the mosquitoes wouldn’t want to come around them. I think that’s the reason why. It is all in the blood from people they have sucked blood from. There are many disease carried in blood and when you carry it around from one person to the next it is going to get spread around fast. Some of our bodies are made up of oxygen and carbon dioxide. So that means if a mosquito can detect carbon dioxide it knows that it is a human.

  4. Jordan, I took the liberty to research why you might be a mosquito magnet! I found a great site that explains this. Turns out mosquitoes are attracted to two main chemicals that are produced by our bodies: uric acid and cholesterol. Normally, Northern Europeans tend to exhibit these traits. If one of the two chemicals naturally excretes through your skin, you will be a more popular meal-choice for the nasty little buggers.
    Switching to the next question, pertaining to why mosquitoes carry diseases, it is said to be explained by what sources the mosquitoes feed off of. Particularly yellow fever is cause by a certain type of mosquito that feeds off of humans and monkeys. After they get blood that may be infested with disease-causing organisms, when they bite their next “victim” the disease can be transferred.
    Overall I thought I would give you a tip on a certain type of mosquito repellent that was recommended on both websites! They said that DEET is the most effective repellent, so try it out! This was a very interesting blog and it made me laugh. 🙂
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