News & Politics

Some Theories on Mosquitoes

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Thursday night was a clement 80 degrees in DC. Couples went on long walks; friends dined al fresco. And because rainy May has given way to the sudden and humid crush of summer, they were all joined by early swarms of mosquitoes, also dining al fresco.

Mosquito season is a fractious time in my house because mosquitoes, like parents, pick favorites. During a late-night ice cream run, my husband announced he had been bitten twice in two minutes. I told him that was untrue. It was more like he had been drunk from by a sharp and living straw twice in two minutes. By the time we made it home, he counted 8 bites. I was unharmed.

“They love my blood,” he complained, in a way that somehow felt obnoxiously like bragging.

“It’s probably your pre-diabetes,” I said, making viciously light of a fear he harbors based on an untreated addiction to Monster Ultra Citron.

When laughter finally gave way to hurt feelings, I decided to just look up why mosquitoes prefer some people’s blood over others (“You’re the worst at Googling,” he said).

What I found, or rather what I did not find, was troubling. “One in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes,” Dr. Jerry Butler told my real doctor, WebMD. “Researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface,” said Dr. Joe Conlon from the American Mosquito Control Association, which is a real association.

There’s a theory about steroids and cholesterol living in the skin being attractive, but there’s a lot science is yet to prove. To help progress, here are some theories based on an informal longitudinal study:

  • Mosquitoes only attack in summer, but they are actually always watching. Their victims are the result of careful study.
  • Mosquitoes love attention. This is why they bite the person in any dyad more likely to complain about the experience at length.
  • Mosquitoes are sometimes bashful. You can talk about them too much. That’s why they bite the person most likely to force the entire group indoors to accommodate his/her/his vulnerability.
  • Mosquitoes have seen that thing people do where they use their fingernails to depress a painful X into their skin as a form of itch relief. Mosquitoes find this hilarious.
  • Mosquitoes are actually caught in the liminal space between life and death. It’s existential torture. This explains their attraction to light. “There is peace and serenity in the light.”
  • Mosquitoes love DEET. That’s why they spend so much time feasting on people who think a 6-ounce canister of Off! Deep Woods repellant is intended for single-use.
  • Mosquitoes were the first Twi-hards.
  • Mosquitoes feel about stagnant puddles the way adult humans feel about taking baths. They know it’s kind of gross, but they do it anyway.
  • All things being equal, mosquitoes would rather bite someone who won’t just admit Beyoncé is a genius.

Contributing Editor

Amanda has contributed to Washingtonian since 2016. She has written about the right-wing media personality Britt McHenry, chronicled her night with Stormy Daniels, and come clean about owning too much stuff. She lives on H Street. She can be reached at [email protected].