Mosquitoes make a very annoying sound, leading to sleepless nights and a ridiculously tiring day ahead. There are a lot of mosquitos facts that we are curious about and mosquito sounds are an example. How do mosquitoes make a buzz? And why do they even make a buzzing mosquito noise? Before we move onto the “why” aspect of mosquito buzzing, we need to address the “how” factor behind the sound of mosquito buzzing. Mosquito wings are the answer! Mosquitoes have a pair of wings just like any other flying insect. There is an organ at the base of the wings, which when moved produces vibrations that produce this mosquito buzzing noise. For small insects, mosquitoes have uniquely shaped wings and wing motions which differ from other kinds of insects like fruit flies. Mosquitoes can flap their wings up to 1000 times/second at a tremendously high frequency (>700 Hz). The result is the annoying buzzing sound that keeps you up at night and destroys your peace of mind. Although both male and female mosquitoes produce this noise, female mosquito wings create a higher-pitched sound. Most insects use vibrations or sounds as a form of communication. For mosquitoes, the buzzing sound is produced as a “mating call”.
Do all mosquitoes buzz?
Yes, but in variable frequencies. Both male and female mosquitoes buzz through beating their wings. But, because male mosquitoes do not feed on blood and therefore, do not stay in close proximity to warm blooded animals, it is unlikely for you to hear the buzz of a male mosquito. Females on the other hand appear to be very loud and clear for two reasons:
- Females have to live off blood to sustain themselves and their eggs, and
- The buzzing sound as a signal for mating is given off by female mosquitoes to attract males and not the other way around.
Female mosquitoes react to the carbon dioxide that humans exhale. The carbon dioxide gradient acts as a trail for female mosquitoes towards their next target. Once they have identified their next meal, a female mosquito will beat her wings approximately 500 times per second, emitting a frequency of around 400 Hz (hertz). The resultant sound is utterly annoying for humans but amazingly enticing for males and they go frantic to find the female who made that sound. All mosquitoes have an antenna which helps them to recognise each other’s sound. Once the male mosquitoes have identified the female mosquitoes, they change their buzz as though they’re singing to one another. Once a match is made, they mate.
Mosquito buzzing sound frequency
Mosquitoes swarm and prey in low-light conditions. In this case, relying on visual perception is of little to no use, so they have to make use of sounds to facilitate communication. Mosquitoes use a variety of wing motions to create the buzzing sound, also known as a “flight tone”. Female mosquitoes have a flight tone of around 400 Hz, a frequency that is pitched in a tone similar to the musical note A.
Male mosquitoes on the other hand have an audibility range tuned to 300 - 400 Hz. When they perceive these vibrations and sounds, male mosquitoes react immediately and often end up beating their wings at even higher frequencies than females. Female mosquitoes on the other hand do not react to flight tones generated by other females. Buzzing sounds of female mosquitoes are specifically aimed towards male mosquitoes. But in the process, we humans often end up hearing them simply because female mosquitoes lurk around our heads. As mentioned earlier, carbon dioxide acts as an attractant for mosquitoes and is often used in mozzie traps. Because we exhale it, the gradient of carbon dioxide around us increases, which attracts female mosquitoes towards us and we can hear the buzzing of their wings. However, this does not attest that female mosquitoes are attracted to our head. Why some people are bitten more by mosquitoes than others is simply dependent on a person’s genetics, diet and skin microbiome as explored and suggested in a number of experiments. There are also various mosquito attractants so if you happen to wear them or be around them, it is most likely that you'll be hearing more of this buzz!
While it may seem that mosquitoes exist just to annoy us, it isn’t entirely true. Mosquitoes are consumed by fish (larvae), birds, bats and frogs and thus play a role in the ecosystem by being part of the food chain. Some species of mosquitoes also act as important pollinators.
Mosquitoes buzz when their wings vibrate, which is achieved through beating and flapping their wings. So, most of the mosquito buzzing occurs while they are on flight.
All mosquitoes make a buzzing sound. However, buzzing sounds made by female mosquitoes tend to be more audible as these mosquitoes come near warm blooded animals (like humans) more often than male mosquitoes.