A couple nights ago I was head and shoulders deep in my bed of columbine and peonies, rooting out maple tree sproutings and dandelions. George eventually came out to water the other garden, but first stood behind me for a few minutes before speaking. The conversation went like this:
“Did you remember to spray yourself with bug spray?”
“Are the mosquitos eating you alive?”
“I hate you.”
What he really hates is that mosquitos tend to leave me alone. They might buzz around my head a bit, and occasionally one will land, but mostly they ignore me. So, when we’re walking down the street or strolling through the yard, I’m oblivious to their presence while he’s flailing like a windmill and muttering dire threats against the entire insect population.
“I guess you’re just much sweeter than I,” I told him one day, in an attempt to mollify him. He didn’t buy it.
Figuring there had to be some reason why I’m not high
on the menu list for mosquitos, I did some online searching. I learned that it doesn’t matter who is sweeter because it’s not the taste of the blood that counts with mosquitos. It’s the smell of the microbes on our skin.
The trillion or so microbes that live on skin give off different chemicals, some of which smell more attractive to mosquitos than others. It’s the microbes that work on sweat to give us body odor. While we share 99.9 percent of DNA with other humans, we only share 10 percent of the same microbes–which explains why some people have more noticeable BO, I suppose, and why some are the full-meal deal to the little blood suckers.
Even when a few mosquitos decide smell isn’t everything and try dining on me anyway, I seldom get a resulting itch. I read that mosquitos inject their hosts with saliva to keep blood from coagulating while they suck. Our bodies, recognizing the foreign substance, send out histamines to fight, and that creates the itch. Why don’t I itch? I can’t find a good answer for that. I hope it’s not because I don’t have enough histamines, since they’re part of our immune system. I prefer to think the mosquitos decide my microbe stench is so bad they can’t force themselves to hang around long enough to inject much of their saliva. Whatever works.
So now, when George and I are walking down the street and he’s swatting mosquitos and I’m not, I know the answer. His bugs smell better than mine.