Why Do Mosquitoes Make a Buzzing Noise?

You have to admit, mosquitoes are very annoying insects! In addition to the fact that they bite us, suck our blood, and leave itchy, red marks, they also make that buzzing noise that could make even a monk lose his cool.

Okay, maybe not a monk. But for regular people, the buzzing of a mosquito is probably one of the worst sounds in the world. This quote from Christine Todd Whitman really illustrates the effect a single mosquito can have:

“Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room“.

Why do mosquitoes buzz? And how do they do it?

There is both a short and a long answer to the question of why mosquitoes buzz because the noise is linked to their anatomy and biology.

The short answer

The short answer to this question is that they just do it because they cannot do anything about it.

The buzzing sound is made by the mosquito’s wings when they fly. And since all mosquitoes of all species, male and female, have wings, they will make that buzzing sound.

The only difference is that thanks to the fact that only female mosquitoes drink our blood and male mosquitoes tend to stay away from humans, you will usually only notice the buzzing of female mosquitoes.

The long answer

The long answer has to do with how exactly mosquitoes fly.

As mentioned above, mosquitoes create this buzzing noise with their wings when they fly. Mosquito wings are very small, so for mosquitoes to be able to fly at all, not to mention against the wind, their wings need to move very fast. In fact, mosquito wings beat up to 800 times per second. 

Scientists have also discovered that mosquitoes use the buzzing of their wings not only to annoy us and announce their presence to us (Okay, this is not scientifically true, but at least that is what it seems like whenever a mosquito is near us!) but also to find suitable mates.

Since female mosquitoes are larger than male mosquitoes and move their wings slower, mosquitoes can tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes just by the sound they make.

And it is the sound of the females’ wings that attracts male mosquitoes.

And mosquitoes even have the ability to slightly change the buzzing noise they make. They do this when they are near other mosquitoes. And if their buzz synchronizes with that of the other mosquito, they will have found a good prospective mate.

But does that mean that mosquitoes have ears? No, mosquitoes actually have an organ in their antenna (the Johnston’s organ) that allows them to recognize sounds and therefore use them to find potential mates.

Conclusion

So, it turns out that buzzing is not just a thing that mosquitoes do to annoy us. It actually serves a purpose. And despite how much we may hate this sound, researchers can actually use it to develop quieter drone technology.

5 Comments

Nat

Best explanation so far and it is often overlooked in scientific papers. The mosquito buzz may be more significant than is thought because they are capable of drifting around silently and seem to be abe to control the buzz at will. Buzzing around your head at night seems to be counter productive because it advertises their presence; does it in fact signify that they have already feasted on you and are feeling very happy?

Nyerguds

Not sure about his… I’ve specifically noticed mosquitoes flying around without buzzing when I have lights on, and then notice that they start buzzing when the light is off. It almost seems like they’re echolocating…

    Karen

    I think the buzzing just seemed more distinct to you when you turned off the lights and went to bed since then the noise level in your room was naturally lower and therefore the mosquito buzzing seemed extra loud.

    A.N

    I came here out of curiosity on why they make sound different from flies. And it happens right on daytime.

Jeff Merson

I got here by googling:by what mechanism do bees, flies, mosquitos generate a buzzing sound? I got a piece of an answer here. Thanks.
— Jeff

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