Why do mosquitoes like some of us more than others?

Aussie mozzie season is upon us, and with it comes those annoying, itchy little patches that drive us mad after we’ve fallen victim to a mosquito’s bite. And for many, an age-old question comes with it, too: “Why do mozzies seem to like me the most?”

In a new study, scientists from New York Rockefeller University have set about answering that very question. And with Australia likely to experience a boom mosquito season this summer, an answer could be very useful.

The scientists reported their findings in Cell magazine and the culprit, they concluded, is our body odour. The mozzies judge how good you will taste by how good you smell.

Read: La Niña drives greater chance of cyclones and floods

This might lead you to ask a follow-up question: What it is that makes me smell better to mosquitoes than others around me? The answer to that, the study tells us, is an acid we all produce, carboxylic acid.

Carboxylic acid is produced in our glands and is one of the chemical compounds that causes body odour. If you’ve been exercising and produced a lot of sweat loaded with carboxylic acid, you’ll likely drive away other humans, but the mozzies will find you and bite you.

The study suggests that the amount of carboxylic acid you produce is directly related to how attractive you will be to a hungry mosquito.

Are Aussie mozzies different?

This is actually a very good and important question. The Rockefeller study focused on a species of mosquito called Aedes aegypti,which is commonly associated with the spread of yellow fever and other diseases such as dengue.

That sounds like good news for most Aussies, because in Australia Aedes aegypti is found only in central and Far North Queensland. But the bad news is, the other mosquitoes in Australia could be just as attracted to carboxylic acid as their cousins, or a different chemical compound that produces your signature body odour.

Potentially making things more complicated is the fact that Australia has around 300 different species of mosquito.

So, while your particular scent might have some mozzies turning up their noses at you, others might be more likely to make a beeline (or should that be mozzie-line?) for your exposed flesh.

Read: Wet spring means more mosquitoes – and Japanese encephalitis

Until we have an equivalent study focused on the more common species of Australian mosquito, we’re unlikely to learn which body acids are their favourites.

As summer approaches, Australians will need to steel themselves for several months of arm slapping and bite scratching and, thanks to La Niña, the coming warm season could be particularly bad.

The two ingredients vital to the mozzie lifecycle are warmth and water. The warmth hasn’t hit most of Australia yet, but the water certainly has, particularly across the eastern seaboard.

As the floodwaters recede, stagnant water will pool at lower levels creating the perfect breeding ground for a bevy of biting bugs.

Read: BOM predicts wet summer with third year of La Nina

This could have consequences far more serious than a few annoying bites, now that we’ve seen the emergence of the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus.

Can I do anything to stop the mozzie charge?

Many mosquito-repelling myths have arisen, including having high levels of vitamin B and drinking a regular gin and tonic.

This might make you feel better in other ways, but there is no science that says it will ward off mozzies.

The best advice we have at the moment, according to Associate Professor Cameron Webb, a mosquito expert at NSW Pathology, is your bog-standard commercial repellent. The key, though is to whack it on liberally, as you would sunscreen.

Covering yourself will also help, preferably in loose-fitting clothes, as the mozzies can sometimes get through the defences of tighter clothes and activewear.

Perhaps there’s a marketing niche there for those whose particular chemical composition is irresistible to mosquitoes: the Great Aussie Mozzie Cossie!

Are you one of those people mozzies seem to love? What solutions have you come up with to combat them? Why not share your experience and thoughts in the comments section below?

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. My daughter is a mozzie beacon. Took my kids and a few nieces to a park once and had to leave almost immediately because of the mosquitoes. The other kids had about six bites, we stopped counting my daughter’s after 30.

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