UPDATED: Some readers may have interpreted a previous version of this story to mean natural repellants such as garlic and bananas may work. However, this is not the case.

Just about everyone can agree that mosquitoes are an irritating part of the summer months.

But who and why do these small, buzzing, pesky bugs bite? 

To get to the bottom of the most common mosquito myths, Canada AM spoke with staff scientist Bruce Doran from Science North in Sudbury. 

1) Some people get bitten more than others.

True. Mosquitoes are attracted to certain pheromones and bacterial ecology on our skin, and they prefer some biochemical smells over others, Doran says. Although scientists haven’t pinpointed exactly which attributes of biological composition mosquitoes prefer, this explains why two people can go into the deep woods and yet only one will be covered in bites. Since mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, which all human produce, your biochemistry won’t totally protect you, Doran says. 

2) Mosquitoes have a preference of blood type.

False. There is no evidence that a mosquito likes a type a blood over another, but there may be a genetic link between smells and the blood type factor (but this has yet to be confirmed). 

3) Mosquitoes are attracted to certain colours.

True. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours (such as black or blue). You’re less likely to be bitten if you’re wearing light or white clothing, plus you can spot bugs easier. 

4) DEET is unsafe.

False. It is safe, and it is the best repellent out there. When DEET is applied properly and used as prescribed, it’s the gold standard of bug repellents, according to Doran. It got a bad reputation years ago, when it used to be sold in higher concentrations that could melt plastic. But that’s not the case anymore, Doran says. He says it is the preferred repellent by the Canadian Medical Association, especially to repel disease-carrying insects. 

5) Natural repellents are effective.

True, well partially. Natural repellents such as eucalyptus oil and citronella are limited in their effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes.

Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society approve the use of these repellents but their effectiveness is somewhat limited to between 1/2 hour to 2 hours, Doran says, whereas at 30% DEET solution can offer five to eight hours of protection.

6) All mosquitoes bite.

False. Did you know that only female mosquitoes actually bite? Female mosquitoes have sensors in their head that search for human scents like the carbon dioxide we give off, Doran says.