I have the great fortune of living in a country with a lot of mosquitoes. They’re around 3 seasons of the year, just not summer. When the water’s too hot in hard to find stagnant puddles, their little wormy babies die off. Unlike the clumsy, torpid vermin I grew up with in Canada–only around in the summer, these mosquitoes are small, fast, and almost silent. They also seem to possess a malicious intelligence. It’s like they hate their existence and so try their very best to make me hate mine.
They buzz around my ear at the very moment when I’m just starting to fall asleep. They are drawn to my descent into slumber. Activated by a rhythmic change in my breathing. As I drift deeper into the thin mist between the unraveling thoughts of waking life and the ephemeral clutches of the dream mind, Operation Wake the Fuck Up is initialized. Mozzy Quato Pilots deploy, scrambled with orders to extract the elixir of life from my dozing meat apparatus. Yet it’s as if they want me to be awake for what could and should be a simple transaction. On particularly bad nights, I’d leave a large part of my body exposed, praying that they didn’t go for a knuckle or a lip. Surely a nice hunk of thigh or forearm should suffice. But nay, they almost always seem to go for the thinnest and most sensitive regions. Areas that instantly begin to burn and itch from a dirty reaction to their sketchy proboscis, made of rusted fiberglass wire. In and out for them. Then they leave. Hovering slowly away with double their weight in blood. Oh, I hate them.
And yet for some reason, they are not as interested in me as they once were. I can’t say my feelings are hurt. I do not quietly call out to them in the darkness, saying “You’ve changed.” Though I do wonder why. Could it have something to do with changes in my diet? After reading countless theories and tips on how to become less visible to the Moskatta, I’ve drawn my own conclusions. It all comes down to breath, smell, body temperature, even color.
Here’s how the Mosquitus Bastardus works. They have a stupidly powerful sense of smell that essentially draws them to two things. Two indicators…that alert them to blood, ripe for the suck. The first is the worst because it’s CO2; that crap we exhale up to 20 times a minute. So if you’re in a room with a lot of people yammering away and you happen to notice an increased population of our little pal, it’s not so much that they sense your hot-blood, it’s more likely that they’ve come to a sweet little greenhouse gas party.
The second aroma they like is lactic acid. This one also sucks because our bodies make the stuff all the time, and it builds up on our skin over the course of the day. Bummer, but at least there’s some hope. There are foods that contain a lot of lactic acid. Dairy products contain the most–milk especially. I’ve been lactose intolerant forever, and don’t drink milk because that’s what really sets my stomach off. But eating cheese and yogurt, or cooking with any dairy product–all fine. Over the last couple years, I noticed a few changes I sort of unconsciously made. One was I stopped adding cream to my coffee. Don’t know why, but I went from enjoying 3 hot coffees with cream a day to drinking 3 black iced coffees instead. The other thing was that I really tapered down on my cheese intake. It’s not like I was sitting around gobbling down hunks of the stuff, but I always had it in the fridge. And more often than not, I’d have to throw away moldy cubes of it, having not gotten around to eating the stuff. I still love it, but I do eat considerably less now. Not sure why, but my cravings for cheese have just sort of petered out.
The third factor of mosquito attraction is body temperature, which kind of ties the whole room together like Lebowski’s rug. The hotter you are, the more mosquitoes are attracted to you. The hotter you are, the more lactic acid your body creates. The hotter you are, the deeper and more frequently you breathe. Food can play a huge role in increasing our body temperature, especially foods that are harder to digest. Red meats, processed foods, dairy products and sugary things all make our bodies work harder to digest. That makes us hotter. As does overeating to a degree. And often enough, it’s usually a combination of these kinds of foods that we tend to gorge ourselves on in the first place. Perhaps because they’re yum. That said, if you go into a food coma having eaten too much kale, you may also experience a spike in body temp. And again, I have noticed that I eat a little less red meat, not a lot of processed food–unless we’re talking red hots, very little dairy, and I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth.
Body odor is also a major contributor because it too gets altered drastically by what we put in our bodies. All meaty, salty things lend an underarm to our funk. When our bodies get hot, we sweat more. Then all kinds of lovely, scent-creating bacteria bloom to life. Alcohol is a biggy, and some mosquito geniuses think that those little fuckbirds love the smell of a rummy, crashed in his bed. That said, I don’t think this factor explains why I don’t get bitten much anymore. My alcohol consumption has increased over the last few years, not decreased. But, I’m mainly a weekend warrior and tend to not drink so much during the week. Maybe I get bitten all to shit on the weekends, but I’m just too hammered to be woken up by it. Jury’s out on this one, I have no conclusive personal evidence.
The last factor has nothing to do with food–unless you’re a sloppy eater like I am, or you hate feeling hot, like I do. Color. Mosquitoes love dark colors on which they can hide their dirty little evil bodies. So if you’re fond of wearing your blacks to conceal mustard stains, you’re asking for more trouble. But it really depends on the species. Think camouflage. Just as the colors and patterns of camouflage are different for deserts, forests, or wintry landscapes–different colored mosquitoes are attracted to whatever they best blend into. Sometimes black is too dark to hide in. Taiwan has a few kinds of mozzy, but the most prominent one is the little brown blood pecker. I once owned a pair of brown corduroys that seemed to be all the rage with the mosquitoes. Any night I had them on, I was sure to get bitten a lot more than usual. So much did they like them, I stopped wearing the damned things. True story. I still wear dark clothes, but I don’t know, maybe I just wear less brown than I used to. All told color-wise, this is least contributing factor of the lot. But if you’re thinking little brown wooden cabin in the woods, you might be double-screwed.
Reading up on this topic was interesting for me, but I also found much of it to be vague and even confusing. For instance, most experts agree that mosquitoes don’t like people who eat a lot of spicy food. Okay, but it should be made clear that there’s a big difference between eating foods that have fresh chili peppers in them, and eating stuff that has had hot sauce added to it. Fresh chilies are not the friends of the mosquito, they say. However nobody mentions that many hot sauces contain a lot of lactic acid, which is the mozzie’s besty. BUT…all spicy foods lower the body temperature, that’s a good thing. BUT…they lower our body temperature by making us sweat, WHICH contributes to body odor. HOWEVER… mosquitoes possibly don’t like the smell. SO…okay.
In utter compliance with the essential necessity to generate a concise, albeit personal conclusion, here’s what I surmised. I hate feeling hot. Hot makes me thirsty, and thirsty makes me crazy. I guess I toned it down many a notch on hot-making food and drink. Too much red meat makes me hot. Salty and or sweet junk foods make me hot. Cheese–hot. I also hate feeling full. Always have. Not that I don’t love a good bacon cheeseburger with fries and a coke every now and again. I just don’t love it as much as I used to–because I hate feeling hot and full. It makes me feel like I’m bloating out and shriveling up at the same time. Lying there, sweating and stinking, gasping out huge invisible plumes of CO2, just asking for trouble. Brown track suit on, triple screwed.
So that’s what I got when I put it all together. Heat seems to be at the core of topic–altered by various foods, and in turn altering our aromus-corpus. So, I’m pretty sure that unless I’ve become a toxic cesspool that the moskeets want nothing to do with, which could also be true, I have to take the plunge…with total confidence–and say that I’ve lowered by average body temperature enough to make a difference. And in doing so, I have successfully camouflaged myself from those little cock lanterns. Like many things in life, shooting for 100% can be demeaning and counter-productive. There are no quick fixes here. Different things work for different people. And often the effectiveness of change and improvement come in low-ball increments, administered from more than one angle, over time. Decreasing your attractiveness by 10% is a major improvement, and could be the difference between getting a decent night’s sleep or not.