As the days grow warmer and longer, we find ourselves spending more time outdoors with friends, family, and—unfortunately—biting bugs. Many of us swear by various fail-proof methods of bug repellent, but rarely do we consider that the foods we eat may be bringing pests directly to their preferred source of food: you.
In recent years, researchers have begun associating pest attraction not only with what you put on your body, but also with what you put in it as well. With dangers like Lyme disease, Zika virus, and West Nile virus posing a risk to your health, being proactive about bug repellent has never been more crucial. Keep your family protected by reading on to understand what experts on the subject have deemed fact or fiction, and discover what pests really think about what’s on our menu.
All humans taste differently to biting bugs.
FACT: Scientists have identified over 340 chemical scents that humans produce, many of which are attractive to common insects. Bugs such as mosquitoes use their sense of smell to navigate, possessing the ability to smell you from over 50 yards away. If you’ve ever wondered why you get eaten alive by mosquitoes while everyone else at the cookout tends to stay bite-free, it may be due to your diet. The food you eat alters your body chemistry and can send messages to biting bugs that you’d make an excellent meal.
A diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables will make you less appetizing to bugs.
FICTION: While there is much evidence that straying from processed foods will make you less attractive to mosquitoes, gnats, and ticks, many of our favorite healthy foods may actually put you at risk for bug bites. Potassium-rich foods such as bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins, lima beans, avocados and spinach increase the amount of lactic acid your body emanates, turning you into walking all-you-can-eat buffet for bugs. However, evidence has suggested that increasing foods rich in vitamin B1 (thiamine) may safeguard you against ticks. Eating whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds have been shown to mask some of your scent, making you less detectable to blood-sucking mites.
Bugs have a sweet tooth, too.
FACT: Bad news for your sugar craving: grabbing that extra cookie at the block party can actually make you more susceptible to biting bugs and pests. As your blood sugar rises, so does the likelihood of you being bitten. Bugs such as gnats and mosquitoes can smell the sugary aroma of sweets even after you’ve taken the last bite. It adds up—if bugs tend to congregate on the fruits, pies, and melted snow cones of summertime, they’re certainly going to be partial to the humans that enjoy them as much as they do.
Eating salty foods attracts biting bugs.
FACT: A diet high in sodium, just like a diet high in sugar, causes your body to produce more lactic acid, making you a magnet for biting bugs. It’s no wonder we tend to leave picnics with a few more bug bites than when we arrived. Easy-to pack-picnic and barbecue foods tend to be high in sodium, unwittingly luring mosquitoes, flies, and gnats to your gathering as well. For your next park outing, consider packing foods with a lower sodium content to aid in decreasing the amount of lactic acid your body will generate, allowing you to focus more on your stellar volleyball serve and less on swatting pesky bugs away.
Consuming alcohol can make your blood unattractive to pests.
FICTION: Biting bugs are actually more attracted to people who have knocked a few drinks back. Experts believe this is due to the surge in ethanol found in your sweat, increased sweat production, and elevated skin temperature due to the blood vessel dilation associated with alcohol consumption. Because of the documented risk, the best thing you can do is to say no to alcohol if you’re trying to avoid being bitten. One pest may remain an exception to this rule: studies have revealed that bed bugs will feed less on blood with a higher alcohol content. While they won’t stick around for as long as they might otherwise, it doesn’t deter them from biting altogether. Don’t consider a few drinks to be an effective way to repel bed bugs (sorry!).
Watching your diet can do wonders for your health and for keeping annoying pests away. By following these simple guidelines, you and your family will be on your way to enjoying more carefree time spent together and less time worrying about keeping biting bugs out of your festivities. If you need more tips on how to keep your family safe and free from harmful bugs this season, give us a call to chat with one of our friendly professionals.