[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Have you ever turned off your lights and heard [mosquito buzz]? To you it’s a sound that signals bites in the night. But to a male mosquito it’s a love song, produced by a female seeking a mate. Now scientists from Cornell University find that males who answer that call join in the serenade. And the two sing in harmony as they check each other out. [Mosquitoes buzzing.]
Working with Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—the pests that carry dengue fever—the scientists tethered individuals to a special insect pin and allowed them to fly past a potential mate. They found that females on their own whine at a frequency of 400 Hertz. Whereas single males buzz at about 600. But when the two come together, they perform a duet in which the beat of their wings reaches a frantic1200 hertz. [Tone.] Isn’t it beautiful? Mosquitoes seem to think so. Which is a surprise, because researchers had previously thought that female mosquitoes were deaf. But the Cornell scientists found that mosquito ears are good up to 2000 hertz, results published in the January 9th issue of Science. Maybe that harmonizing could be exploited for controlling mosquito populations. Releasing into the wild males that can’t sing could be a real buzz-kill.