Friday, July 30, 2010

Mosquito Beer Goggles

It's the time of year when people retreat to campsites and cottages to relax and enjoy a beer on the dock or by the campfire. The only real downside to those kinds of getaways is the bugs.

There are over 2500 different species of mosquito around the world, but sometimes it seems like they've all joined forces to suck us dry unless we arm ourselves with DEET or lasers. And that beer by the lake may not be helping.

A paper just published in PLoS ONE reports that beer drinking makes you more attractive to mosquitoes. (Now if only my beer drinking would make me more attractive to other people) Greg Laden has more.
Researchers working in Burkina Faso recently decided to test the hypothesis that beer drinking would have an effect on mosquito prey preference, and they found that it did. Twenty-five human volunteers drank beer and were explosed to 2,500 A. gambiae mosquitoes, and 18 volunteers drank only water and were exposed to 1,800 A. gambiae mosquitoes (100 mosquitoes per volunteer). The behavior of the mosquitoes was observed, and it was determined that they go after the beer-drinkers preferentially.
As mentioned in the quote, the particular mosquito species being studied was A. gambiae, one of about 40 species that transmit malaria, which is another reason to trade in the beer, perhaps for a gin and tonic.

There was also some speculation as to why beer drinking attracts the bugs. One suggestion is that it might be adaptive: because of impaired reflexes and co-ordination, a mosquito biting a drunk is more likely to survive the encounter.

Personally, I think they're attracted to the increased self-esteem.


J4Y said...

the methodology is even more cooler in that paper.

The Doc said...

I seem to recall that mosquitos home in on carbon dioxide in our breath. I wonder if the carbonation in the beer is responsible for encouraging the little bastards...