If it seems like mosquitoes are more attracted to you than others around you, it’s probably true. Some people are just juicer targets, and while there are plenty of theories as to why that is, most haven’t actually been tried and tested by scientists. Sadly, one of the few actual studies on the matter suggests an unfortunate truth: Drinking alcohol does make you more likely to get bit. But that doesn’t mean teetotalers can roam free, either.
In a 2002 study from Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Japan, 13 participants were measured for sweat production, ethanol in sweat, body temperature and the frequency with which mosquitoes landed on them. Then, each participant drank a single 5.5 percent alcohol beer, and was then re-measured. Though the former three variables didn’t shift, mosquitoes landed on participants more often after drinking.
The study was small and only utilized beer, but the general correlation seems to be there: You’re more attractive to mosquitoes after a drink. It’s thought that maybe this has to do with ethanol production and sweat, though this particular study doesn’t exactly support that. Instead, there are some other theories. One plausible explanation is that mosquitoes are attracted to warmth, so people who generate more heat than others around them are more likely to be targeted. When you drink alcohol, your body doesn’t rise in temperature, but warm blood does move closer to the skin’s surface as the result of blood vessel dilation. Another theory is that mosquitoes are attracted to CO2, and that you exhale more of it when you consume alcohol.
Again, neither of these theories has entirely been proven, and mosquitoes probably won’t avoid you just because you’re sober. That’s unfortunate, because more than an itchy nuisance, mosquitoes transmit diseases like Zika. If you’re really serious about not getting bit, as you should be, it’s better to take the established precautions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this includes removing any standing water where mosquitoes may lay eggs, wearing protective clothing and using an EPA-approved insect repellent.
So, keep boozing outdoors as you please — just make sure you keep the bug spray handy.