Blondes Have More Fun

Under Certain Conditions, Tow-Haired Folks Will Have Less Fun — and More Itches

By Buck Wolf

June 21, 2001 — Just like gentlemen, mosquitoes sometimes prefer blondes.

Oh, we can pay lip service to Thomas Jefferson's promise that we're all created equal. But, as you gather around the barbecue, face it. Some of us just get more attention. And in that regard, being blonde doesn't hurt. Or does it?

Professor Andrew Spielman, co-author of Mosquito (Hyperion) and one of the world's foremost experts on mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, says blondes and redheads might be more attractive to skeeters, for the same reason they tend turn heads at cocktail parties. That is, they stand out in a crowd.

"Mosquitoes are attracted to contrasts," says Spielman. "If you have one blonde person with long hair wearing bright colors at a picnic held in the shade, where the other people are dark-haired, you know who is going to get the attention."

But mosquitoes look for more than good hair when choosing a target. A variety of research has shown that ovulating women, people with smelly feet, and those who sweat a lot are also good eatin'.

"Some people are clearly more attractive to mosquitoes. The precise reasons are unknown. But various research has shown that skin temperature, contrasts of color, lactic acid, and other conditions make a difference."

While this difference shouldn't really prompt blondes to buy extra bug spray — or feel at greater risk for a mosquito-borne disease like West Nile virus, it says a lot about one of man's smallest, yet deadliest foes.

Book Has Good Buzz

Spielman's book, co-written with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael D'Antonio of Newsday, takes a look at how the mosquito has shaped our lives, and to some extent, world history. This summer, as you gather 'round to roast weenies and the insects gather 'round you, keep a few things in mind:

The More You Swat, The More You Get Bitten: When you flail your arms to shoo away skeeters, you're probably just attracting them.

The sweat from your effort merely tickles the mosquito's antenna. Your movement catches her eye. The lactic acid from your overworked muscles whets her appetite. The heat of your skin tells her, "It's feeding time."