It is a well-known fact that mosquitoes are very annoying insects because in addition to the fact that they bite, suck our blood and afterward leave itchy and red marks, they also make this buzzing noise that could make even a monk break his cool and swat the mosquito away as soon as possible. Okay, maybe not a monk, but to regular people mosquito buzzing probably is one of the worst sounds in the world. It is no accident there is a quote from Christine Todd Whitman:
“Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.”
But why and how do mosquitoes exactly make the buzzing noise?
There is a short and a long answer to the question of why mosquitoes actually make the buzzing noise because this noise is linked to mosquito anatomy and biology.
The short answer to the question why mosquitoes make the buzzing noise is that they just do and they cannot do anything about it because the mosquito sound is made by mosquito wings when they fly. And, since all mosquitoes, no matter whether they are male or female mosquitoes or what species of mosquitoes they are, have wings, they make the buzzing sound. The difference is that thanks to the fact that only female mosquitoes drink our blood and male mosquitoes tend to stay away from humans, you won’t notice the buzz of male mosquitoes.
The longer answer entails how exactly the mosquitoes are able to fly and therefore how are they able to make this annoying buzzing noise. As I mentioned before, mosquitoes make the buzzing noise with their wings when they fly. Mosquito wings are very small. For mosquitoes to be able to fly against the wind and to fly at all, their wings need to move very fast. In fact, mosquito wings beat 300 to 600 times per second, but the buzzing isn’t caused by the mosquito wings beating against the wind as it might seem. There actually is an organ at the base of mosquito wings which scrapes against different parts of mosquito wings when they fly. And this scraping to us sounds like buzzing, causing the annoying mosquito buzz.
But scientists have discovered that mosquitoes also use the buzz of their wings not only to annoy us or announce their presence to us (okay, this is not scientifically true, but at least it seems like it whenever a mosquito is near us) but also to find suitable mates. Because female mosquitoes are larger than male mosquitoes and therefore they move their wings slower, other mosquitoes can differ male from female mosquitoes just by the sound they make alone. This is possible because mosquitoes have an organ in their antenna which allows them to recognize sounds. And the female wing buzzing is also the thing that attracts male mosquitoes, because, for example when the female mosquitoes are resting the male mosquitoes don’t want to mate, but as soon as the females are in the air again and buzzing their wings, the male mosquitoes are ready to mate again. In fact, mosquitoes are even able to slightly change their buzz. They do this when they are near other mosquitoes and if this changed buzzing matches the changed buzzing of the other mosquito, they mate.
So mosquito buzzing isn’t just a thing that mosquitoes do, they have a special purpose for it. And despite how much we hate this mosquito sound, it is one of the best bets for scientists to create a way to keep the mosquitoes from mating and producing new mosquitoes.