Mosquitoes bite male birds nearly twice as often as they bite females, a finding that may help scientists understand how to stem some viruses from spreading to humans, new University of Florida research shows.
In findings published online in Royal Society Open Science, UF entomology assistant professor Nathan Burkett-Cadena found mosquitoes bite male birds 64 percent of the time, compared to 36 percent for females.
This marks the first step for scientists to try to determine why mosquitoes bite men more often than women in some parts of the world and vice versa in other areas, said Burkett-Cadena, who is based at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.
Now that scientists know mosquitoes suck blood from male birds more than females, they can turn their research attention globally. For example, the human malaria parasite can be found five times more often in men than women in China, according to a 2009 study. Burkett-Cadena said using his method, researchers could investigate whether mosquitoes bite men more often than women and if that is the reason Chinese men are more often infected with malaria.
“What if some behavior men are engaging in is exposing them more to mosquitoes?” he said. “It’s not that mosquitoes prefer to feed on men, but it’s probably something men are doing. Are they working or relaxing outside while women are inside, taking care of the household? If men and women are engaging in different activities that cause them to be bitten by mosquitoes more or less often, then perhaps people can alter their behaviors to reduce their chances of contracting a deadly disease.”