What's Bugging You?

Contributor: Victoria Surface. Lesson ID: 13292

Mosquitoes primarily feed on nectar. So why do they bite you? Let’s find out!

categories

Life Science, Practical Life Skills

subject
Science
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Did you know that male mosquitoes do not bite animals at all?

So why do all of those female mosquitoes LOVE to bite you and not your friends?

Male mosquitoes feed only on nectar from fruits and plants. Yes, they're vegan! It's those female mosquitoes that can be so pesky! But not to everyone.

So why do the females bite?

mosquito bite

Before a female mosquito can lay her eggs, she needs to get proteins only found in the blood of animals. She needs fresh blood that she can't get from plants in order to produce eggs to fertilize. Side note…mosquitoes breed as often as they can.

So why does a mosquito bite itch?

itchy bug bite

When a mosquito bites, she injects a kind of anesthetic that numbs the immediate area. Then, the mosquito injects her needle-like nose into the flesh. But the saliva ends up spreading around the body tissue.

This triggers a response from the immune system. The body produces histamine, which increases blood flow to the area and allows white blood cells to work their magic. However, the histamine also messes with the nerves in the area, causing the itching.

So why don't some people notice mosquito bites?

They have immune systems that identify the mosquito bite as a non-threat and don't react to it. How about that? Their immune systems are lazy!

So how does a female mosquito identify her victims?

mosquito eyes

Mosquitoes have very large compound eyes, but they can only see in black and white. So if you have a darker skin tone and are wearing dark colors, you are more likely to get bit.

Also, mosquitoes have delicate antennas that can scope out certain scents. One of those scents is lactic acid. Yes, that's right, the same acid that builds up during exercise. Exercise also increases blood flow…which is enticing to those female mosquitoes!

mosquito on human skin

But what if I wear lighter clothes and don't exercise?

Well, that's a good first step to not attracting those female mosquitoes. However, carbon dioxide also attracts mosquitoes. Every time you exhale, they'll be coming for you!

Okay, so what if I wear light clothes, don't exercise, and don't breathe?

Well, check your blood type. People with type O blood seem to attract mosquitoes more than other blood types. Also, stay clean! Mosquitoes are attracted to the microbes on your skin.

Now move on to the Got It? section to review what you learned with two interesting videos.

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