Fitness Coach

You should be able to outrun the bloodsuckers, theoretically.     Photo: Gerald Yuvallos/Flickr

Q:

Can Humans Outrun Mosquitoes?

I’ve spent some time this summer by a lake in the Midwest. During this time, I’ve been running, and every time I run, I come home with a bunch of new mosquito bites. Shouldn’t I be able to outrun the insects? How do I make them stop biting me?

A:You should be able to outrun the bloodsuckers, theoretically. Mosquitoes fly at a speed of one to 1.5 miles per hour, and can only maintain that speed for about 10 minutes before they need to rest, according to Joseph Conlon, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association. So if you and a mozzie were to race, you’d probably win.
 
However, chances are your daily run isn’t a battle between you and a single, hungry mosquito. Millions of mosquitoes and 176 species of mosquitoes live in every U.S. state. (West Virginia has the fewest number of species at 26; Texas has the most at 85.) Even worse: Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, two products you’re generating through exercise. “If you exercise, you will attract them,” Conlon says. The insects can detect CO2 from up to 35 meters away, then zigzag toward the source until they’re close enough to use your body heat and scent to get to you.
 
So what to do? “Be next to someone who attracts mosquitoes,” Conlon says. Some people’s scent entices mosquitoes more than other’s, so running next to a more delicious human could help. But it sounds like you’re that guy. (Have those friendly Midwesterners been inviting you on their runs more often, lately?)
 
Other options: Run in the wind and rain. “Mosquitoes don’t do well in windy places,” Conlon says. They have trouble flying through a stiff breeze, and the air current will scatter your scent, making it harder for them to track you. (Note: If you want to hang outside later, set up some fans for instant mosquito-flinging wind.) And though high-speed cameras have proven that mozzies can fly through rain unscathed (see video below), they don’t enjoy it. Instead, they’ll hang out somewhere protected to avoid a raindrop pelting.
 



If all else fails—or to start—coat yourself in bug repellent. Conlon recommends products that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, as that’s the only way to guarantee the repellent will work for at least two hours, and is safe to use as directed. The EPA even has a repellent search to help you find a product. 
 
THE BOTTOM LINE: You could outrun a mosquito, but the act of running will attract more. Avoid the pests by running in a breeze or in the rain*, and using an EPA-approved repellent. (*Unless, obviously, a thunderstorm accompanies the wind or rain.)

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