Knowing the insects’ favorite body odors could help scientists build better traps and repellants.
Body odors, carbon dioxide (via exhaled breath), and body heat all alert mosquitoes to a person’s presence. The bugs pick up scents through olfactory neurons on their antennae—they can smell body odor up to 60 meters away—and use body heat to zero in on their target.
As has been found in previous studies, more mosquitoes seemed to prefer people whose scent contained a blend of carboxylic acids, the oily secretions that hydrate and protect our skin. Two of those carboxylic acids are also found in Limburger cheese, McMeniman notes, a known lure for mosquitoes.