Summertime means sunshine, backyard barbeques… and mosquitos. Oh, you forgot about the mosquitos, did you? The cold months of winter may drive these blood-sucking pests from your mind, but not from your yard!
If you are searching for ways to keep away the mosquitos, you are not alone. Many people—from anonymous internet posters to scientists like entomologist Susan Paskewitz – have proposed interesting ways to ward off the bugs.
These ideas range from the mundane to the bizarre. One of the most popular theories is that bananas have an effect on your attractiveness to mosquitos, either for good or for bad.
What do you think? Have you heard of this rumor? Do you think bananas will prevent mosquito bites, or cause more mosquitos to swarm you? Whatever you think, you may be surprised to learn that even the experts have not come to a consensus on this.
However, there is evidence that bananas likely have an effect on how many mosquito bites you get. Wondering whether to avoid or eat bananas this summer? Read on to learn what myth and science have to say!
Mosquitos and Bananas: Folk Tales
For years, some have claimed that eating bananas wards off mosquitos. Others have said they attract mosquitos.
Most often, you will hear the claim that bananas make you more prone to mosquito bites. Perhaps you have heard this—I have! And I will admit that I did cut down on my banana intake, just in case.
The idea behind this belief is that after a banana is digested, the smell of the banana ends up on your skin, apparently through sweating. Mosquitos allegedly love the smell of bananas, and so are attracted to banana-scented humans.
A more scientific-sounding explanation is that bananas contain octanol, which is attractive to mosquitos and is often used to in mosquito traps. Although this may be true, many other foods also contain octanol, so bananas would be just one of the dozens of foods you would have to avoid in order to cut octanol out of your diet.
Despite the logical issue with avoiding all octanol-containing foods, this argument sounds convincing! Could bananas be full of mosquito-attracting compounds? Maybe.
But before you throw away all your bananas and your tropical-scented body spray, though, you should know that other people claim the opposite. Some say that bananas are actually a mosquito repellent!
The logic behind this is that bananas have vitamin B6, which has been said to repel mosquitos. However, recent student studies from the University of Wisconsin have busted the myth that vitamin B is an effective mosquito deterrent.
Does Eating Bananas Attract Mosquitoes?
The idea that bananas attract mosquitos is rooted in science, but it lacks logical follow-through. As you read, the compounds in bananas that attract mosquitos are found in many foods, so it is unlikely that skipping your daily banana will have much of an impact on how attractive you are to mosquitos.
Additionally, many people believe that bananas repel mosquitos because they are high in vitamin B. This idea comes from a study done in the 1960s, which alleged that vitamin B supplements could repel mosquitos.
However, more recent studies, which have been done according to modern research standards, have found this to be false. Vitamin B does not seem to have any effect, or at least any significant effect, on the amount of mosquito bites received by study subjects.
So, what does science say about bananas and mosquitos? Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, experimented with this idea. She and her students found that among subjects who ate bananas, more mosquito bites were received a couple of hours after eating a banana. Those who ate a different fruit saw no increase in bites.
This isn’t exactly a high-budget research project with peer reviews and publications, but it may show that eating bananas can actually increase your risk of mosquito bites. Still, skipping bananas will not keep away all the mosquitos.
There are many other ways you attract mosquitos without realizing it:
Other Ways You Attract Mosquitos
There are many ways to attract mosquitos, and most of them you can’t help.
First, you can’t stop breathing. Mosquitos are attracted to the carbon dioxide in your breath, which is how they locate you in the first place.
Secondly, you can’t help your genes. Scientists don’t know why genetics contribute to how tasty mosquitos think you are, but they know that genes do play a role.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can control.
First, you can control how sweaty you are. Mosquitos are attracted to sweat, especially sweaty feet and its associated odors. It might be difficult to avoid while camping, but if you’re planning a backyard barbeque, try showering first to avoid attracting as many mosquitos.
Darker colors also attract mosquitos. If you want to avoid mosquitos, it is more effective to wear white than to skip bananas.
Finally, mosquitos are attracted to people who have been drinking. Although the reason for this isn’t clear, skipping a beer may help you avoid a few extra bites.
Eating bananas may make you slightly more attractive to mosquitos. While some researchers agree with this, the jury is still out as to whether or not this is actually true.
In any case, cutting bananas out of your diet will probably have more negative effects than positive effects, since skipping the nutrients from the bananas will outweigh the benefits of potentially getting a slightly lower number of mosquito bites.
As far as benefits go, you won’t get any mosquito-protection benefits from eating bananas. If you thought that a daily banana would keep you free from bites, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.
But don’t give up the bananas yet—you can still use that peel on your bites to alleviate some of the itchiness!
If you want to avoid mosquito bites, your best bet is investing in a can of DEET bug repellent—not following rumors and myths or skipping bananas all summer.