Watch CBS News

What does beer have to do with mosquito bites?

As the number of people infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus continues to grow in the U.S., the trend may be especially nerve-wracking to those who tend to get riddled with mosquito bites whenever they step into the great outdoors.

Mosquito scientist Grayson Brown, director of the Public Health Entomology Laboratory in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky, told CBS News various studies have suggested reasons why some people may be more likely to become mosquito bait compared to others.

Beer drinking

One study by Japanese researchers found that drinking a single beer increased mosquito attraction. Brown said it's not clear why that might be, but it's possible alcohol raises the body temperature of drinkers and makes them sweat more, both known mosquito magnets.

Brown said the C02 that fizzles out of a beer bottle when its top is popped could be an attraction factor, too.

"CO2 comes bubbling out of a beer when it's opened. C02 is going to attract mosquitoes that feed mostly on mammals. We know that mosquitoes use CO2 to get close to the mammals," he said.

They can follow a stream of carbon dioxide from more than 100 feet away.

If you're at an outdoor event in the mosquito-filled summer months, Brown recommends avoiding beer and sodas and opting instead for a non-carbonated beverage such as iced tea.

"Anything that doesn't generate C02."

Is mosquito repellent safe to use during pregnancy? 02:20


"Lactic acid and the bacterial colonies that comes with sweating are very strong attracters for mosquitoes," said Brown.

In fact, he added, "We use an artificial version of sweat as a principle lure in our mosquito traps."

Just how much you sweat and the chemical make-up of it is also determined by genetics.

Skin bacteria

Mosquitoes are attracted to chemicals in the air, including certain bacteria that live on the skin.

"There have been a lot of studies of bacterial fauna on people's skin," said Brown. "It's assumed if you wash with antibacterial soap, you reduce the diversity and amount of bacteria and diversity seems to be important in mosquito attraction."

He suggests washing with antibacterial soap during mosquito season.

Type O blood

There have been several studies on blood type and mosquitoes. In them, Brown said, "People with type O blood types were significantly more attractive to mosquitoes than people with type A."

But, he noted, those studies were only conducted with Asian tiger mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus), known to transmit Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Another test in different types of mosquitoes -- there are 3,000 species worldwide -- might not show the same results, he said.

Pregnant women

"Pregnant women are bigger and so they retain more body heat. And they emit more carbon dioxide," said Brown.

Zika infection is believed to be a bigger concern for women in their first and second trimesters, he noted. The CDC has linked infection earlier in pregnancy with miscarriage and serious birth defects, including microcephaly and deformed limbs.

Brown said the only mosquito attraction research he's aware of though has been in women in the later stages of pregnancy -- the third trimester.

Yeast users

Bread bakers might want to wait for the mosquito-free cooler months to practice their hobby. Mosquitoes like yeast, Brown told CBS News.

"Anything associated with yeast. Using sodium bicarbonate and vinegar as a cleaning solution will attract mosquitoes, too," he said.

Clothing color

Mosquitoes use color to pinpoint humans, too, Brown said.

"Color is a cue. They are much more likely to go to someone in dark clothes versus somebody in light clothes," he said.

And choose long sleeves and long pants when outdoors, says the CDC.

The best ways to protect yourself from the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne infections, though, is to use EPA-registered DEET-based bug repellents, and stay in air-conditioned locations that use window and door screens. Pregnant women should also avoid travel to areas where the Zika virus is being actively transmitted, recommends the CDC.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.