When it comes to summer there are a few things that come to mind: a break from school, vacation trips with family, smores and, of course, bug bites. When the weather is warm, we aren’t the only ones out enjoying the sun. Pests like ticks can make humans sick while stinging insects like wasps can sting people … and they can hurt A LOT! But when you think of bug bites you have gotten on your arms or legs, you probably think of the itchy bites caused by mosquitoes. So, why do these bug bites itch? And why do mosquitoes bite people in the first place?
Mosquitoes bite because they need blood to lay their eggs. Since female mosquitoes lay the eggs, they are the only ones that bite. In fact, the way our bodies smell and the heat we give off, as well as the carbon dioxide we exhale when we breath, can attract mosquitoes.
In order to bite someone, a mosquito uses its mouthparts to pierce the skin and draw blood, like sucking from a straw. Mosquitoes inject certain proteins into the bloodstream to help it quickly suck up a full meal. These proteins tell our body’s immune system that something is wrong, causing it to release a compound known as histamine. This compound sends a signal to the nerves surrounding the bite, causing it to become itchy. So, it’s actually our own immune system that causes mosquito bites to itch! Although it may be tempting, scratching a bite can actually make it itch even more.
In order to stay bug bite and itch-free, wear long pants and sleeves when possible outdoors and ask a grown up to use an insect repellent to keep mosquitoes away.