I’m sure many of you have come across a lot articles which mention that bananas attract mosquitoes. That if you eat this tasty fruit mosquitoes will come from far and wide, attracted by the scent of fresh banana. We’ve all heard of unusual and strange ways to attract mosquitoes or to keep them away. Some of them sound logical. Many of them just sound plain weird. Like mosquitoes and bananas, for example.
For most of us, the last thing we want to do is attract these horrible, irritating, blood-sucking insects. Just the sound of a single ‘skeeter’ in a room has most of us on edge. We automatically tune in to the sound of their whining wings. Mosquitoes can ruin a good night’s sleep, a great barbecue, our holidays abroad, and much more. So if someone’s telling us bananas attract mosquitoes, should we ditch our daily dose?
Why Bananas Attract Mosquitoes
Banana oil contains fatty acids, which will attract mosquitoes. All mosquitoes need a source of sugar in order to survive. Flowery or fruity scents are therefore attractants. Female mosquitoes do not crave blood based on our sugar levels (or whether we eat bananas or not): These scents are a different attractant.
We never need to worry about male mosquitoes. It’s the girls that are the problem. To help female mosquitoes produce eggs they need a good source of protein. Human blood is irresistible. But all mosquitoes – both boys and girls – need a source of carbohydrate, or sugar. While they usually crave nectar, they will love fruits as well. And that’s where the mosquito’s attraction to bananas comes in.
All mosquitoes love the scent of fruit and flowers, especially early in the evening. Certain chemicals emitted by fruit and flowers attract both male and female mosquitoes. Many store-bought mosquito traps use synthetic equivalents of these scents to lure them to their deaths. My site lists a number of recommended lures and traps. Using fruit-scented lures often helps get rid of these irritating and often dangerous beasties before they get to us.
How To Be Less Tasty To Mosquitoes
There’s only one way to avoid attracting mosquitoes, and that’s to stop breathing and sweating – permanently. Not many of us are willing to go this far, which is understandable. Mosquitoes have highly efficient noses – that’s olfactory organs to the scientists among you – that pick up on a huge number of chemical markers. These chemical markers guide mosquitoes to their next meal.
Over the centuries, humans have come up with many different methods to make us less attractive to female mosquitoes. These mosquito-free tips range from taking B12 supplements to lighting citronella candles, and from rubbing garlic on your skin to putting dryer sheets in your pockets. To be less tasty to mosquitoes we need to do one of three things:
- Distract them with something (or someone) that smells even better;
- Cover up our own scents;
- Make ourselves smell less attractive.
What Makes Us Attract Mosquitoes?
Some sources tell us that when we eat bananas we breathe out more chemicals that mosquitoes find attractive. This is true, but what really attracts mosquitoes is much less complicated and even harder to avoid. So what makes humans so irresistible to female mosquitoes?
- Carbon dioxide: The air we breathe out sends a chemical ‘I’m Here!’ message to female mosquitoes. The more fat cells you have, the more CO2 you produce in your body. The more you have exercised, the more CO2 your body will need to get rid of. Most carbon dioxide is removed from the body via the respiratory system. It is impossible to avoid producing CO2 in a living body.
- Heat: More specifically, body heat. Studies have shown that mosquitoes are attracted to a narrow spectrum when it comes to temperature. Warm-blooded mammals (humans included) just happen to part of this narrow temperature range. And the larger you are, or the more pregnant you are, or the more exercise you do, the warmer you become (and the more attractive you are to mosquitoes, too).
- Sweat: There are many chemicals in human sweat that attract mosquitoes. Particularly carboxylic acids and lactic acid. While having a wash before bed might be recommended by some, we still can’t avoid producing heat or carbon dioxide, so this piece of advice isn’t always helpful unless you are sharing a room with someone else who sweats more than you do.
For a more detailed look at attracting this blood-sucking and biting insects – by a human or not – you can read this article, which is all about how to attract these pests in order to eventually kill them!
Do Bananas Help With Mosquito Bites?
Now you know exactly what attracts mosquitoes (fruit and flower oils, carbon dioxide, body heat and excreted acids). So you probably realize that eating bananas won’t make you much more (or less) attractive to a female mosquito. If you are alive, you are attractive. But bananas produce odors that attract mosquitoes looking for a sugary meal. So if you happen to have a bunch of bananas in your bedroom, there is a higher chance they will find their way there and once they have finished eating sugar, the females will move on to feed on you.
You might also have heard that rubbing banana peel on these itchy bumps will make them less uncomfortable. Is this an old wives tale? Or does it have some truth to it? Well, banana peels do seem to contain anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory chemicals. And the less ripe the banana, the more anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant the effect. If you like the idea of using something natural, go ahead. In fact, bananas have been recommended for much more than just mosquito bites. Natural health articles talk about their helpful effect in cases of poison ivy, rash, warts and even hemorrhoids!
What Kind Of Food Attracts Mosquitoes?
The following foods and beverages are known to attract mosquitoes:
- Yeast: When it’s fermenting, yeast gives off carbon dioxide (which attracts female mosquitoes);
- Alcohol: Especially beer, since it makes us warmer and more sweaty;
- Lactic acid: Think yogurt, wine and sourdough bread;
- Fruits: Sugars work magic on insects, this includes bananas. Citrus fruits are much less attractive;
- Sugary snacks: Just like humans, mosquitoes can’t resist a sugar high.
What Do Mosquitoes Eat?
Mosquitoes don’t eat much in their adult life, but if they do, they usually consume nectar from flowers or plants. They are also known to be attracted to sugary fruits, such as bananas. Furthermore, mosquitoes will enjoy eating man-made sugars, such as sugary beverages (e.g. coke or lemonade).
Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you are a female mosquito. It’s early evening and you’re getting hungry. You have one goal in life, and that’s to produce as many eggs as you can. In order to produce healthy eggs, you need a good source of protein. But before you even start looking for that protein, you have to look after yourself and find some carbs. You need the energy!
This means you need to find sugar first. Some fruit juice or nectar would be great. If you can’t find those, you can always try some leftover sugary snacks left behind in the nearest human’s kitchen. Your advanced sense of smell detects the fatty acids in the natural oil of a banana. Great. You land on the banana and use your proboscis to suck up the sugary juices. After your sugary meal, you have the energy to find food for your eggs.
So now you have to find your human. Any human will do, although the signals coming from the large, sweaty one overshadow the small, freshly showered one. With no nets in the way, you can simply sink your sharp, female proboscis into a capillary and suck out some blood. The order is important. Before a female mosquito drinks your blood, she needs sugar. So we can lure and trap mosquitoes with sugar.
How Do I Keep Mosquitoes Away?
You can best keep mosquitoes away by creating a physical barrier between yourself and them, or have something close by that’s even more attractive than you which will trap and kill them. Spraying with even the strongest chemicals, such as DEET, is not 100% effective. The more a mosquito comes into contact with these chemicals, the less affected it is.
Making yourself toxic is never recommended unless you find yourself traveling in an area where mosquitoes are known to carry diseases. In 2017 one hundred and twenty one people died in the U.S after coming into contact with the West Nile virus. Other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Yellow fever;
- Some types of encephalitis;
- Zika virus;
There are three types of physical barriers which will prevent you from being bitten by a mosquito. These are the following things:
- Netting: make sure the netting is correctly fitted with no gaps or tears. You should also check for possible six-legged Houdini’s before going to bed.
- Clothing: while thin fabrics won’t create much of a barrier, thick fabrics will. Find out more in this article. But who wants to wear thick, long sleeves and pant legs with tight elasticated cuffs in the summer? Not forgetting the hat and veil?
- Strong breeze: an electric fan creates a current of air which a mosquito can’t fly through. Mosquitoes tend to zig-zag, so a strong breeze will push them back at some point. It’s no good using a low fan setting or opening a window. You need a medium to large fan running at a medium to high setting.
Peeling The Banana
So there you have it. Banana or no banana, all humans are attractive to female mosquitoes. If there’s only one human to choose from, then that person will be their victim. If there is a selection of humans, the person producing the most carbon dioxide, body heat and sweat will be the most attractive. Even if that human hasn’t touched a banana in years. You will find some great mosquito attractants and repellents on my recommended product page. And if you do get bitten, there’s still hope. A quick rub with a not-too-ripe piece of banana peel or one of the many other remedies for mosquito bite relief might just save the day!