How Mosquitoes Got Their Taste for Human Blood

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Article for ScienceDaily Outlines Reasons Behind Mosquitoes’ Attraction to Humans

Ever wonder why mosquitoes are so attracted to humans? In a recent article for ScienceDaily, scientists from the journal Current Biology discuss what exactly makes humans so attractive to these pests. While most people would think that biting humans is innate to all mosquitoes, this is not actually the case. In fact, with over 3,000 species of mosquito in the world today, researchers say that only a few of those have acquired a taste for human blood. So, what is it that draws certain types of mosquitoes to humans?

In their research, the scientists participating in this study focused on the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito and why this species in particular is attracted to humans. By collecting mosquito eggs with outdoor traps in 27 locations across sub-Saharan Africa, they were able to evaluate this species’ preferences for human blood versus animal blood. From this study, the researchers concluded that there are two major facts that play a part in mosquitoes’ preference for biting humans.

According to the article, the first factor that attracts certain mosquitoes to humans is a dry climate. Carolyn McBride, a contributor to the journal article, explains that certain mosquitoes are particularly prominent in tropical climates around the world. McBride also says that their preference for human hosts in these areas means more potential for disease.

According to McBride, she and her fellow researchers “…found that in their native range of sub-Saharan Africa, they [mosquitoes] show extremely variable attraction to human hosts, ranging from strong preference for humans to strong preference for non-human animals.”  Essentially, the takeaway is that mosquitoes tend to thrive and prefer biting humans in warm, dry climate regions, especially those that do not experience much rain.

Researchers also identified another major factor when it comes to mosquitoes biting humans: city life. According to researcher Noah Rose, mosquitoes living in areas with dense human populations showed an affinity for biting humans. However, Rose says that mosquitoes “…only evolve a strong preference for human hosts in places with intense dry seasons…”

According to McBride, the Aedes aegypti species only prefers humans in certain cities in Africa, while not preying on others. So why are some cities not experiencing this problem? “It is only when the cities become extremely dense or are located in places with more intense dry seasons that they become more interested in humans,” says McBride.

The bottom line: Large human populations living in notoriously dry regions are especially susceptible to being bitten, and therefore at risk for contracting mosquito-borne diseases.

Being able to control the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses starts with knowing how and why these pests target humans. Researchers believe that, with increasing urbanization in places with dry climates, more species of mosquito are likely to develop an affinity for biting humans in the next 30 years. To take the first step in protecting yourself and your family from the potentially harmful effects of mosquito bites, contact Mosquito Authority today.