Psst! Wanna join a club? It’s pretty exclusive. Apparently only 20 per cent of people belong to it, although the science on that is a bit iffy, if you ask me. It’s the Mozzie Magnet Club. You’ve seen us. We’re the people scratching our ankles at the evening barbecue, especially if we’re anywhere near a pond or a dam. You might have noticed us doing a special dance when we water the garden at dusk, kicking our legs out and slapping our arms in some crazed version of a Bavarian folk dance.
This morning I was lying in bed, enjoying the fact that it was Saturday, when suddenly it began to rain and I had to run outside and rescue the washing. I spent less than five minutes outdoors and I was in constant motion, but when I got back into bed I had a mozzie bite on my thigh. Please note: I was not standing naked in the garden while I did the unpegging. I was wearing two layers of clothes. How the heck did the mozzie bite through all that fabric? Unless it went via a different route, but let’s not talk about that. This got me thinking: why are some of us the chosen ones? So I did some research and here’s what I found.
Mozzies mainly bite people with type O blood. WRONG! I don’t have type O.
Mozzies bite people who drink beer. WRONG! I don’t drink beer. Pass the bubbly, dahling.
Mozzies bite pregnant women. WRONG! A male friend of mine gets bitten as often as I do and he’s definitely not up the duff.
Mozzies bite larger people because they breathe out more carbon dioxide. Well, how rude! I’m a tall person and will admit to gaining a few kilos in the past few years (middle-age spread, anyone?) but mozzies have bitten me my whole life. When I was about 12 my parents took us to Amsterdam. We stayed in a hotel with tall windows that looked out over a canal. It was only the second hotel I’d ever stayed in and I thought it was beautiful. The breakfasts were a revelation because—shock, horror!—they had ham and cheese and crispbread instead of Weetbix. One night we went out looking for a hidden church that happened to be in the red light district. We walked past a lot of women in their underwear, sitting in windows and waiting for customers. My sister (aged 7): “Daddy, why doesn’t that lady have any clothes on?” Dad (fiddling with guidebook and looking embarrassed): “It’s supposed to be around here somewhere.” Anyway, the point of this story is that I was bitten to death and my parents remained untouched.
Mozzies are attracted to people with higher body temperatures. Guilty on that score. I’m hot. (Insert winking, tongue-in-cheek emoticon here.)
Mozzies see dark colours better, so if you wear black you’re more of a target. Sorry, but that seems terribly unscientific. Are you telling me that people who wear black suits to work get bitten but then when they change into their pink tutu for ballet class they don’t? Are there hordes of goths all over the world scratching their ankles right this minute? Do grieving nonnas get bitten more? That seems very unfair.
Mozzies like skin that has a few types of bacteria rather than many types. Eeuw. And yet, perhaps it’s better to be exclusive and have only a few types of bacteria on your skin instead of hosting any old bacteria that shows up. I really don’t know how many I’m hosting right now and I really don’t want to know, but I’d prefer not to be a bacteria slut.
Underlying genetic factors are probably the main reason some people get bitten more than others. Aha! There we have it. All of the above are the fun theories and the real answer is: we don’t know.
Many years ago I went on holiday to Venice with a friend. We had dinner one night in a restaurant by the lagoon, and it was memorable for two reasons. The first was the pizza. It was the best quattro stagioni I ever had. I still dream about that pizza. The second was the mosquitoes. It was a balmy night and the water lapped softly nearby. In the lamplight I watched mosquitoes line themselves up like planes coming into land, just over my friend’s shoulder. And one by one they flew straight past her black clothes, her beer, her O type blood, her slightly sweaty upper lip, and bit me. Like I said, it’s an exclusive club. I guess we should be flattered.