Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

“Why are girl mosquitoes silent?”

Ah, Mosquito Week, when every post seems to take two very itchy days to compose. 🙂 Is it Thanksgiving yet?

A sandpiper

Our favorite sort of mosquito catcher. (Image by casmium via Flickr)

If you live in the area, the programs at Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary are hard to beat. We moved away from Massachusetts in 2013, and my daughter and I *still* miss Moose Hill.

One of the reasons The Four-Year-Old has been plagued by mosquito bites this fall is that she has been taking weekly nature classes at the Mass Audubon Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

Every class includes a nature hike, and as I foolishly thought I could get away with using an all-natural non-toxic bug repellant this fall (picture the fleece and knit equivalent of a full haz-mat suit), a few hardy buzzers have found her.

One day as we were walking back to the car after a class on turkeys, she asked, “Mommyo, why are girl mosquitoes silent? And why do boy mosquitoes buzz?”

This was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing, so naturally I had to ask the iPhone.

Why are girl mosquitoes silent?

It’s not clear that this little piece of folklore is true.

In my search, I found a few passing references to the opposite being true–male mosquitoes don’t buzz, while females do. But as that buzzing sound is produced by the beating of mosquito wings, I can’t understand how that could be true. Both male and female mosquitoes fly, don’t they?

Apparently, some mosquitoes can change the sound their wings make while flying

The only source I found in my quick search that I really trusted on the topic, Discover Magazine’s Science for the Curious blog, says that both male and female mosquitoes buzz, and that they can adjust the speed of their wings to change the pitch of their buzz to create a sweet (to their ears) harmony during mating.

Researchers are apparently trying to find ways to control the mosquito population by releasing a swarm of sweet-sounding sterile studs to fool the blood-sucking females. We here at Caterpickles Central wish them the best of luck.

3 Responses to ““Why are girl mosquitoes silent?””

    • shalahowell

      According to Discover Magazine, they use genetic engineering to sterilize the males.

      I have no idea what this “genetic engineering” would entail (I am only an English major, after all, and rather pressed for time this afternoon with a turkey to brine, an apple pie to bake and a preschooler-decorated house to clean).

      Another approach is to engineer the male mosquitoes so that they produce offspring that are either incapable of surviving in the wild or that are incapable of transmitting diseases like dengue fever.



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