Why do mosquitoes bite? Because you're a 'big bag of water,' UC researchers say

Dehydration one reason mosquitoes bite

CINCINNATI -- Why do mosquitoes bite?

According to University of Cincinnati researchers, the bugs aren't just seeking protein to lay eggs. They're also dehydrated. 

"It might be a lot easier for a mosquito, or we see a similar effect in ticks as well, to find a big bag of water - which is us," assistant professor Josh Benoit said. 

The UC research was published in the journal "Scientific Reports."

The researchers have a special room at UC where the mosquitoes rule. Biology grad student Christopher Holmes said they keep it at about 82 degrees and humid because those are the optimal rearing conditions for mosquitoes. 

Grad student Elise Didion said they feed the mosquitoes blood through a thin film that mimics skin. 

If the weather is hot and dry, that can dehydrate mosquitoes and cause them to bite more. The more they bite, the higher the chance of spreading disease.

"Just incorporating the dehydration of the mosquito and how it impacts them biologically, we would hypothetically see an increase in West Nile virus transmission," Holmes said.

Experts recommend keeping bug spray handy. They're expecting it's going to be a big year for mosquitoes. The winter wasn't cold enough to kill many of them off.

Benoit said it will be "close to -- probably -- record-breaking."

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