What's The Buzz With Mosquitoes Waking Us Up?

Summer sucks. There, we've said it.

Don't get us wrong, we love the sun, the beach, the lazy days around Christmas and New Year, the heat, the storms... every single thing about Aussie summer except the bushfires and the mozzies.

Those damn little bloodsuckers -- buzzing around your head at night and waking you up, biting your ankles -- it's enough to drive you mad, right?

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So Why Do They Find Us So Bloody Attractive?

Mosquitoes are stimulated by a number of factors when seeking out a blood meal, but initially they’re attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale.

And the ones that bite us? They're ladies.

"Almost all female mosquitoes need blood. It provides the boost of energy required for making eggs," Dr Cameron Webb Medical Entomologist from the University of Sydney and NSW Health Pathology told 10 daily.

"Mosquitoes are attracted to warm-blooded animals by detecting the carbon dioxide exhaled. All animals are giving off carbon dioxide, and people are no different.

"Once they’re attached to us, the mosquitoes will respond to our body heat and skin smell -- skin smell in particular probably explains why some mosquitoes prefer to bite some people more than others."

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So What's With The Buzz?

The truth is they're buzzing all over the place -- it's just that in the dead of night you can hear them from around 30cm away.

"Mosquitoes all make noise, it is the sounds of their wings 'flapping' about as they move about looking for blood," Webb said.

"The sounds they make do differ slightly between different types of mosquitoes and while some scientists are trying to develop traps that identify mosquitoes using their wingbeats, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference just by listening at night."

It's a pretty safe bet the mosquito buzzing around your head at night is the common Brown House Mosquito, or Culex quinquefasciatus.

This type of mosquito loves breeding in and around homes, preferring to lay eggs in drains, gutters and other water-holding containers and structures full or polluted water, Webb said.

They commonly come inside homes and will bite, but they can be a little indecisive when it comes to biting people.

"That's why they wake us up," Webb said.

Brown House Mosquitoes typically go after birds. Webb reckons the reason we hear them at night is that they’re buzzing about trying to work out if we’re a large featherless bird.

Once the mozzie gets closer, she will attack her prey.

Sometimes she will bite once and leave, other times you get bitten, well, everywhere. *Scratches head*

There is a reason for that too.

"Some will bite once and get as much blood as possible," Webb said.

"Others will bite lots of different people, taking only a little bit of blood each time. This is a smart move by the mosquito as by only spending a short time biting, it reduces the risk they’ll be found out and squished!"

Often they buzz around more than once because they've been interrupted mid-feed -- say, by you shooing them away or turning over in your sleep. So sometimes being bitten multiple times is actually your own fault.

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According to Richard Halfpenny, Lecturer in Biological Sciences, Staffordshire University, mozzies have some pretty gross habits. Scientists have demonstrated some mosquitoes are attracted to Limburger cheese.

"The cheese’s notoriously stinky aroma is caused by bacteria, coincidentally a similar bacteria to that found between our toes," he wrote on The Conversation.

Opting for shoes rather than thongs may block access those bacterial aromas.

How To Kill The Buzz
  • At night, try having a fan on in the bedroom. “A ceiling fan or one in the corner of the room disrupts air flow, which makes it harder for them to fly around,” Webb said.
  • The most effective way to stop Mozzies biting is by using a topical insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. "Whatever repellent you choose, make sure it is applied to all exposed areas of skin," Webb said.
  • Inside the house, don’t put insect repellent on before you go to bed. "You’ll probably rub it off during the night and most formulations won’t remain active the whole night anyway," said Webb.
  • Plug-in 'mozzie zappers' that release insecticide from a mat or oil reservoir can be very effective too -- they’re like smokeless mosquito coils.
  • NEVER burn a mosquito coil beside the bed overnight -- as well as being a fire hazard, you don’t want to be breathing in all that smoke.

Feature Image: Getty