We all know someone. The person who becomes a feast at every summer barbeque. The mosquito magnet who sprints from the front door to the car because any more than 10 seconds outside leads to an itchy bite. The unfortunate soul who cannot escape insects, even during the winter. Maybe this is your fate, your child’s or that of another loved one – but is it random, or does it boil down to science?
We had a debate in our office and set out to discover which blood type mosquitoes find the most delicious, since more than a few of us seem to be tasty snacks. Thankfully, we found research from scientists who already put in the work for us.
One controlled study by the Journal of Medical Entomology1 observed the landing preference of mosquitoes on humans of various blood types. An earlier study published in Nature2 took it a step further and tested their feeding preferences by the number of bites for each group.
Though the methods varied, the results all pointed to one blood type: O is the most appetizing. Mosquitoes landed or fed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. Those with Type B blood were a second favorite treat.
Does that mean people with Type A are in the clear? No way, as many of you can probably attest. Approximately 80 percent of humans secrete sugars related to their blood type, so the study from the Journal of Medical Entomology also tested whether “secretors” influenced the arthropods’ (mosquitoes’) preferences. Researchers concluded that mosquitoes are more attracted to secretors than nonsecretors.
While we learned blood type does play a role, science shows it is not the only factor. Metabolic rate, lactic acid, acetone (found in your breath) and other chemicals humans naturally release affect the attraction. Extra body heat, movement and dark colors can also entice these pesky creatures.
Just like some people seem to be tastier to mosquitoes, others may release chemicals on their skin that repel bugs (how do we get some of those?!), which is another reason pests bother some people more than others.
If you are type O, or another member of the unlucky mosquito magnet crew, we may not be able to stop the bugs from attacking you, but we can ease the aftermath of their attacks. The Bug Bite Thing suction tool painlessly removes insect saliva and venom to eliminate the itching, stinging and swelling that comes as a result of bites and stings. It is especially helpful for the people who have the double whammy of genetics: mosquito-attracting blood and an extra-sensitive immune response to insect saliva that leads to larger welts.
Does your blood type seem to match up with the results of this research? Share your experience in the comments.
1. Yoshikazu Shirai, Hisashi Funada, Hisao Takizawa, Taisuke Seki, Masaaki Morohashi, Kiyoshi Kamimura, Landing Preference of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) on Human Skin Among ABO Blood Groups, Secretors or Nonsecretors, and ABH Antigens , Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 41, Issue 4, 1 July 2004, Pages 796–799, https://doi.org/10.1603/0022-2585-41.4.796.
2. WOOD, C., HARRISON, G., DORÉ, C. et al. Selective Feeding of Anopheles gambiae according to ABO Blood Group Status. Nature 239, 165 (1972). https://doi.org/10.1038/239165a0.