Understanding mosquito bites in Hawaii

Why These Hawaii Visitors Get Far More Mosquito Bites

Fascinating information about what makes you more susceptible to mosquito bites in Hawaii. Because of Zika Virus and other diseases potentially spread by mosquitoes in Hawaii, they remain a concern. Zika, of course, is not endemic in Hawaii, and, to date, all of the cases identified here have been travel-related infections that occurred outside of Hawaii.

Mosquitoes are also responsible for other diseases like Malaria, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, and Japanese Encephalitis. Hawaii also has the smaller and ubiquitous no-see-um biting gnats. As with mosquitoes, they are more prevalent in rainy areas and where there’s less concrete.

Some visitors are simply more likely to get bit by mosquitos in Hawaii.

Female mosquitoes bite, and your blood becomes part of the egg development. But some people get bit more than others, and we have some additional information about why.

  1. Type 0 blood may be tastier to mosquitos. Each blood type has different antigens. Some researchers believe that type 0 is the most appealing to mosquitos.
  2. Wear lighter colors to avoid being bit. Mosquitos are attracted to dark colors, although that, as with blood type, hasn’t been proven conclusively.
  3. Mosquitos smell our breath and sweat. When we exhale carbon dioxide, mosquitos smell that even from a long distance. Jeff tends to hold his breath around mosquitos for that reason. He can’t confirm if it helps. The bugs also smell the sweat and its various components on the skin.
  4. Beer-drinking and mosquito bites. One study asserted that those who drink beer might be more attractive to mosquitos.
  5. Visitors taste better than residents. We don’t know why that’s the case, but it is. We call it the “fresh blood” theory. When you first arrive in Hawaii, you’re a female mosquito’s dream come true. Those of us who live here, far less so.

Here’s a four-step primer on having a bite-free Hawaii vacation.

  1. The best prevention is covering as much skin as possible starting late afternoon, hiking and near standing water.
  2. Use insect repellents on exposed skin. From our experience, Deep Woods Off is one of the products that has always worked best in Hawaii. We’ve also been experimenting with a variety of natural mosquito repellents.
  3. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s report on mosquito repellents.
  4. Don’t scratch. No-see-um bites itch terribly, but if you do not scratch them, they usually stop itching and virtually disappear within an hour or two. If you scratch, you end up with a bloody mess. Mosquito bites may not go away as rapidly and tend to swell more, but they will heal more quickly if you do not scratch them.

Luckily, Hawaii hasn’t been affected by the endemic West Nile Virus, although all 48 mainland states have. The only cases reported here are those that occurred out of state. The Hawaii State Department of Health is at heightened awareness of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases, especially since, as indicated above, two of the species that carry dangerous viruses live here in the islands.

Dengue Fever in Hawaii.

Nearly 15 years ago, there was a significant outbreak of dengue fever in Hawaii, with the majority of cases on Maui. More than 100 people contracted the disease.

More recently, a small number of locally-acquired cases of dengue fever occurred on the Big Island in 2015-2016. During that outbreak, there were 264 confirmed cases, of which 238 were Big Island residents.

Dengue is not endemic to Hawaii but is intermittently imported by travelers. In total, three dengue outbreaks have occurred in Hawaii since 1946.


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5 thoughts on “Why These Hawaii Visitors Get Far More Mosquito Bites”

  1. All very good info. It’s also dependent on where you are staying. The Hilo windward side of the Big Island is mosquito heaven. Where as Waikola Village only gets 7.5″ of rain a year. I have never seen a mosquito there. We play a fair amount of golf, mostly at the municipals. Love the Wailua course on Kauai too. Almost all of our golf is done walking. We have found that moving along and not staying in one place for too long is helpful too. Can’t say I’ve been bitten much at all.

  2. I heard about a commune on the big island that the residents don’t get bit by mosquitoes. New residents that come get bit for 6 months then none!!

  3. In 1994 when we traveled by motorcycle from Quebec to Alaska we heard that mosquitoes were as big as helicopters and could take Brewer’s Yeast to make our blood Les appetizing to the creatures. We took it three times a day three weeks before we left and didn’t get bit once. We have been taking t every summer since and rarely get bitten on any of our trips to the Maritimes or even at home where we live where there are lots of mosquitoes. We also grow 700 heads of garlic a year (use 250 to replant) and have heard garlic changes our blood enough to make it unappealing to mosquitoes. Hope those two tips can help others, they help us a lot!

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