Mosquitoes are darned irritating insects! They bite us, leave itchy bumps, and can transmit diseases. On top of this, they make their annoying high-pitched whine, especially at night when we’re trying to get to sleep.
Have you ever wondered why they do this and if it’s just to drive us mad? Well, it’s not something they do to annoy humans. The sound is made naturally by their wings.
Where Does the Buzz Come From?
Mosquitoes have long, narrow wings that, when flapped, move back and forth up to 800 times per second. This is faster than any other insect of comparable size. The wing size and the rapid beating is what makes the annoying buzzing sound.
The video below shows this in more detail.
Different species produce different buzzing sounds based on the speed at which they flap their wings. The beat frequency also depends on the sex. Generally, you will only hear the female mosquitoes as it’s only the females that bite humans.
She flies around you as she is looking for a blood meal that she needs to assure the development of her eggs. The males feed on nectar or plant juices and won’t normally come too near you, but if he does, you will be able to hear his buzz.
The different frequencies can be used to identify the mosquito species, and there have even been some phone apps produced to do this. If you record a mosquito from close range, the app compares the recording against a database and can tell you what mosquito species it is.
Why Do Mosquitoes Always Seem to Buzz Around Your Ears?
There are probably a few reasons:
- Female mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale, and around your head is where there is the highest concentration, especially when you’re sleeping.
- They are also attracted to heat, and your ears are quite warm. Although the same could be said for other parts of your body.
- Maybe it’s that they are attracted to any exposed part of your body. If you’re like me, your head is always exposed, so the mosquitoes fly near your head and naturally fly past your ears as they search for a place to land and bite.
The Mating Music
Other insects, like crickets, may use sounds they create with their legs to communicate. Mosquitoes have evolved to use their buzz as a tool for communication.
The different flight tones may be more than a spinoff of locomotion; they are used when the mosquitoes are looking for a mating partner. The female mosquito is larger than the male and beats her wings at a slower rate.
When a male and female encounter in mid-air, they engage in a sort of mating conversation. The male is attracted to the “appealing” sound signal emitted by the female. They then change their wing beats’ frequency to bring their flight tone in tune with each other before they mate.
Using the Buzz to Catch Mosquitoes
Most mosquito control methods focus on capturing or killing female mosquitoes, as they are responsible for spreading diseases such as malaria or dengue when they bite. Males have been left alone except in fogging operations.
Using the males’ attraction to the sound of females has been tested in traps with some success. The traps could monitor mosquito populations or capture males to be sterilized and then released to mate with females. The females will then lay eggs, but they won’t hatch.
Experiments have shown that the females don’t care about the sound of male wing beats except when they are looking for a mate.
The buzzing sound made by mosquitoes is not something to annoy us but is caused simply by their wing beat. And can be used by the mozzies to communicate, at least when they are looking for a mate.
If you are suffering from the buzz of mosquitoes at night there are a few relatively simple solutions.
You could install screens on your doors and windows to keep them out, use an insecticide spray, or plugin insect killers. Another easy solution that doesn’t emit any chemicals is to install an electric fan. This will disperse the carbon dioxide you exhale, making it harder for the skeeters to find you, and the breeze will make it difficult for the mosquitoes to fly around your ears. A bed net is another solution you could consider.