Why are some people mosquito magnets and others unbothered? A medical entomologist points to metabolism, body odor and mindset

It’s rare to attend an outdoor party in warm weather without hearing people complain about mosquitoes. They swat away, sit in campfire smoke, cover up with blankets and eventually just give up and go indoors. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of people who don’t seem bothered by mosquitoes in the slightest.

As a medical entomologist who’s worked with mosquitoes for more than 40 years, I’m often asked why some people seem to be mosquito magnets while others are oblivious to these blood-feeding pests buzzing all around them.

Most mosquito species, along with a host of other arthropods – including ticks, fleas, bedbugs, blackflies, horseflies and biting midges – require the protein in blood to develop a batch of eggs. Only the female mosquito feeds on blood. Males feed on plant nectar, which they convert to energy for flight.

Blood-feeding is an incredibly important part of the mosquito’s reproductive cycle. Because of this, a tremendous amount of evolutionary pressure has been placed on female mosquitoes to identify potential sources of blood, quickly and efficiently get a full blood meal, and then stealthily depart the unlucky victim. If you check some, or all, of the mosquito’s search boxes, then you may find that you are a mosquito magnet.