It turns out that your stinky socks may deter your hostel-mates, significant other, and often yourself, but are irresistible to blood-sucking mosquitoes. Attracted by a compound of 8 chemicals (primarily carbon dioxide and octenol) that combine for a pungent cocktail in our shoes, mosquitoes are 4 times as likely to go for smelly feet than elsewhere in the body. There is now enough data behind this phenomena that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $775,000 to developing traps with feet smell as the lure.
You, however, don’t have to wait for a trap when you can make your own – or at least use the latest research about the mosquito olfactory system to give yourself some relief from their itchy bites.
When You’ve Got Room To Breath
Mosquitoes use their noses – in a sense (receptors are found around the abdomen) – to find out where you’re hanging out. That long-range detection system is then tuned to the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide and other smells in the immediate area. The mosquito is looking to get the best blood meal for the risk it takes of being smashed out of existence by swatting hands.
- A mosquito’s sense of smell is about 30 meters (100 feet) wide; so if your concentration of pests in that radius is low, your best bet is to eliminate odor, not intensify it. (More on that in the next section.) When you do have a bit of space to work with, or have other bodies attracting mosquitoes with you in the same room (like a hostel dorm) you can mislead mosquitoes at close range.
By wrapping duct tape, with the sticky side out, around a pair or two of your worst smelling socks you may be a 75% less attractive mosquito target than others sleeping in the same room. This method isn’t completely effective but it can divert a number of hungry mosquitoes to the duct tape trap rather than the back of your neck.
In Empty Rooms, Go Mosquito Stealth
When you’re staying in a dormitory with several other human beings, you can essentially guarantee that your collective smells will have already broadcasted the blood-buffet you represent to mosquitoes nearby. When you’re the only human around however, it doesn’t hurt to mask your scent to reduce the number of mosquitoes that can pile in through an open window overnight.
What’s the answer in a bottle for mosquitoes you ask? Vodka, which can kill smells, stinky feet, mosquitoes and your sobriety if there’s enough left over.
3 of the 4 great travel uses for vodka can help you mask your smell, effectively reducing the number of mosquitoes who will pick up on where you are sleeping. Vodka, when sprayed on socks, kills the bacteria that makes them smell like gross feet. Vodka can also be used to actually clean your feet, disinfecting them at the same time. Finally, if a mosquito happens to be bold enough for a face-on confrontation, one good spritz will send them to mosquito heaven.
Repelling Who You Want To Attract And Visa-Versa
Depending on how far you want to take your mosquito protection, knowing the effect that foot odor has on the pests can at least help you plan where you leave your dirty laundry. Sealing your dirty clothes in plastic bags can make you slightly less attractive to mosquitoes and less repulsive to other human beings who you may be sharing a room with. Finally, there are countless things you can use duct tape for so that roll in your backpack isn’t likely to go to waste on your next trip.
[top sock photo by bark]
Ha, very inventive!! Duct tape has always been my “weapon of choice”, and this article is a bright example of what it can do! 🙂
Ever since I saw the duct tape wallet I’ve been impressed by what it can do!
Well, as someone who just cannot drink vodka and who is constantly being bitten by mosquitoes, I now have a more sensible use for it…along with the smelly socks. Whose smelly socks can I use, I wonder? 😉
…and Fethiye mosquitoes are the super-mutant variety that withstand hand to hand combat. Best use the stinkiest socks in the house – the after-marathon special edition 😛
This is awesome! Mosquitoes LOVE me. Now I know how to get rid of them – or at least keep them off of me! 🙂
You must have some of that extra carbon dioxide too – it’s never fun to be popular with mosquitoes, I have the same problem 🙂
Fascinating! Makes me think this is the reason mosquitoes are drawn to your ankles when sitting at an outdoor table after dark. May try taking my socks and shoes off next time and setting them a few feet away to see if it works.
Your comment also got me thinking of the advantage going for the feet/ankles has for mosquitoes. Perhaps in part it’s due to the fact that they’re so far away from our hands…it will be interesting to see what the latest mosquito research turns up. Surprisingly, we don’t know very much about exactly what mosquitoes are drawn too or why.
Mossies rarely go for me even though the stinkiest socks in the house – and possibly the province – are usually on my feet.
I am not particularly fond of vodka so don’t mind chucking that about the place but please do not think of any alternate uses for brandy.
haha, low amounts of octenol in the blood perhaps – a good thing when it comes to mosquitoes 🙂 And the fact that brandy may not have the same effect on them as vodka, it’s safe for now!
Damn my odor resistant socks. At least I like vodka!
I love the term “blood meal.”
I don’t remember where I first saw the term but remember liking it quite a bit too when it caught my eye 🙂
smelly socks…i’ll have to remember that one…and what a great excuse to indulge in a little vodka. I seem to attract mosquitoes like i’m the last meal on earth so I may need this a little more often than most.
haha, well, keep in mind that drinking the vodka won’t keep the mosquitoes away! Save some over for the pest control – admittedly tough to do 😉
Man, this is a great article Anil – I really appreciate you sharing it. I’ve been to way too many places where there are way too many disease infested mosquitoes (I also don’t tend to change my socks too often). I’m definitely going to set a trap with my socks next time!
Thank you Mark – all in the name of fighting mosquitoes! More than a nuisance as you say; one of the researches I read while putting this together called them “the most dangerous animal on the planet.”
Great post. We’re stocking up on duct tape and vodka right now. Got the stinky socks covered after nearly 5 years on the road through North, Central and South America.
You’ve got the ingredients for a potent mosquito trap!
I’ve used Citronella Tea to good effect in the past when traveling in Costa Rica.
I can’t stand the taste and it’s not always available, so thanks for the additional mosquito repelling tactics that you’ve highlighted here – they’re logged to the notebook.
Always good to have a mosquito defense backup plan! Enjoy 🙂
Funny. I didn’t know about the mosquitoes and the stinky socks relation. Good to know.
They should be good for something!
All I can say is: You’ve outdone yourself Anil…Truly Brilliant! I hope you are well m8!
Thanks! Happy travels to you too!
PS: I would love a post about the uses of duct tape..Maybe you have already and I just need to look for it. It has been popping up more and more often in my reading..
Thanks, I’ll make a note and look in to it 🙂