We’ve all heard it. The infuriating whine of a mosquito in the room. Whether it’s the buzz of a fly or a mosquito, insect sounds have to be one of the worst types of noise on the planet. Even worse than someone scraping their fingernails slowly along a blackboard. But here’s a question for you. Does the male mosquito buzz as much as a female mosquito? Or is it only the females that wake us up from our happy dreams?
To answer this question, we will have to look more deeply into the general anatomy and behavior of the male and female mosquito. What is it that makes them buzz? Do they make the same noise? And is there a reason for it, or is this horrible sound just part and parcel of this irritating, hated insect?
Do Both Male And Female Mosquitoes Buzz?
The short answer to the question of whether both male and female mosquitoes buzz is ‘yes’. You probably know this typical sound is caused by the vibration of mosquito wings. But there is a distinct difference between the pitch and volume of the buzz according to mosquito gender, size and species. Buzzing also acts as a source of communication between mosquitoes.
For mosquitoes, the size of the wing depends on the size of the body, and the size of the buzz depends on the size, sex and behavior of the mosquito. As female mosquitoes are larger than male mosquitoes, this automatically means that their wings are larger. One thing is for sure, both male and females make that whining noise. Below you will find a list of the three most common mosquito types along with their sizes. Who knows, you might have had the pleasure of being bitten by one of them either at home or abroad:
- Culex: Also known as the common house mosquito. There are lots of different species of Culex mosquito and you will find them anywhere in the world, except where it is permanently cold. Culex mosquitoes can measure anywhere between 0.2 and 0.4 inches in length.
- Aedes: This genus contains lots of exotic-disease carrying species of mosquito and has spread from tropical areas to almost everywhere on the globe thanks to us. Aedes mosquitoes measure between 0.125 and 0.3 inches from top to tail.
- Anopheles: Best known as the malaria mosquito, Anopheles is also found all over the globe. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that malaria-free zones don’t have mosquitoes! They do! It’s the malaria parasite that will have been eradicated, not its method of transport. Anopheles mosquitoes are 0.15 – 0.25 inches in length.
Do Only Male Mosquitoes Buzz?
It is not only male mosquitoes that buzz, as we have just seen. If an insect has wings, it will make a noise, no matter how small. So in answer to the question of whether it is only the male mosquito that will buzz, the answer is no. Both male and female mosquitoes make a buzzing or a whining noise. Actually, you are more likely to hear a female than a male.
Why? Females are the only blood-suckers in the mosquito world. They need protein to produce eggs. Male mosquitoes never bite us. This means they won’t be hovering around our beds looking for a quick meal. And the further something is away, the quieter it will be. In theory, of course. In reality, the sound of a mosquito, male or female, somewhere in the room always gets us on edge. Often, the only thing we have between us and them is a net. Personally, the noise always irritates me. So I don’t agree with the American novelist Madison Smartt Bell, who said:
“…there is nothing more soothing than the song of a mosquito that can’t get through the mesh to bite you.”
Do Male Mosquitoes Buzz When They Fly?
Male and female mosquitoes only buzz when they fly or hover. Unlike crickets or cicadas who make sounds either by rubbing their wings together or using a specially-evolved organ, every mosquito must be airborne in order to create a buzz. That buzzing or whining noise is caused by air movement caused by the high-speed flapping of its wings. This type of noise is called a flight tone.
- Wings: Mosquitoes have two wings that are almost the same length as the mosquito itself. Females flap their wings at between 350 and 550 beats per second, male mosquitoes 450 – 700 beats per second. Translated into ‘flight tones’ and measured in Hertz, males buzz at an average of 575Hz and females 450Hz. This is somewhere around upper C and upper F of a musical scale. Mosquitoes can adjust the speed at which they flap their wings, which we will come back to later on.
- Antenna: There’s a difference between the male and female antenna; male antennae are much more sensitive. These antennae don’t pick up sounds, but vibrations. Male mosquitoes are very adept at picking up and amplifying the vibrations made by female flight tones, which has led to the manufacture of devices that mimic mosquito sounds and draw them into traps.
Do Male Mosquitoes Buzz When They Have Bitten You?
That’s a trick question! Only female mosquitoes bite. And only if a female mosquito has already bitten you and is in the process of flying away will she buzz. Female mosquitoes don’t buzz once they have settled on your skin. Their wings flatten and they concentrate on getting to your sweet, protein-packed blood. To make that buzzing sound, mosquitoes need to be airborne.
It can take a few minutes or more than one session for a female mosquito to drink her fill, which just isn’t possible mid-flight. In order to feed, a female mosquito must do the following:
- Locate you;
- Get very close to you;
- Land on your skin;
- Locate the nearest capillary;
- Insert her sharp proboscis into it;
- Take a drink.
Mosquitoes don’t need to make a noise when feeding or having a rest. But they do need to when they travel. Although it’s probably true that the buzzing came first and the communication came later, mosquitoes have learned to recognize each other through their flight tones. And not only recognize each other, but play a musical game, too. The University College of London published a paper in the fall of 2018 which explained recent discoveries concerning mosquito communication. It’s nothing new that mosquitoes are attracted to each other not by scent, but by the air movement caused by their wings. Put a wingless boy mosquito next to a wingless girl mosquito and they probably won’t even know the other is there. But let a female fly into a swarm of males, and that’s another story.
The average mosquito isn’t making that buzzing noise in order to tell you that it wants to be zapped with an electric bat or squished. A mosquito buzz is a method of boy-girl communication that is only now beginning to be properly understood. A mosquito will adjust its wing movement to nearly match that of a new acquaintance. Scientists have said that this is not an attempt to exactly copy the other mosquito, but to create a harmonizing sound. In other words, mosquitoes make sweet music together. If they realize they are the same sex, two boys or two girls will then start to make very different signals and move on. But if girl meets boy, they will continue to create a buzzing harmony and probably make lots of mosquito babies.
Why Does A Mosquito Buzz In People’s Ears?
A mosquito will buzz anywhere when it’s airborne. But why do mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears? The truth is, any piece of bare skin will do. But there are reasons why hungry female mosquitoes often end up in your ears:
- Higher body temperature;
- Close to the mouth and nose;
- Lots of capillaries;
- Usually uncovered.
If you look at this article, you will read about mosquitoes’ attraction to carbon dioxide, sweat and body heat in more detail. But let’s look at why it always seems like mosquitoes head for our ears. Imagine you’re taking a nap. You don’t have any mosquito protection, it’s warm and humid, and you are laying on top of the bed. In this situation, a female mosquito doesn’t really have to work hard. You are warm and sweaty, which means all of your blood vessels are dilated and near the surface of your skin. Let’s face it, you are going to wake up with a lot of itchy bumps!
Now imagine it’s fall. The room is a little colder. You are snuggled under the blankets with just your head poking out. This means the female mosquito on your bedroom wall has much less choice when it comes to finding a great place to eat. But ears are packed with blood vessels. You only need to nick an earlobe with a razor to know that! You are also sending a strong carbon dioxide signal to the waiting mosquito with your breath. If you were a female mosquito, what would you do?
Don’t forget that when a mosquito is flying close to your ear, you will definitely hear it. In fact, you will probably wake up. If a mosquito goes for your feet or legs, chances are the buzz will be quiet enough to not wake you. But when she aims for your ear … forget it! This is also one of the reasons why it seems that mosquitoes prefer our ears. They don’t. Ears are just what happen to be available at the time.
Buzzing Insects Suck!
No-one loves the buzz of a mosquito. It’s irritating, it wakes us out of our sweetest dreams, and it means you’re probably going to suffer later on. There are plenty of products out there that can protect you from getting bitten by a buzzing skeeter. You will find some tried and tested ones on my product page. Those are battle-tested and proven to work by me personally, so I’d certainly check it out if you’d like to finally get rid of mosquitoes once and for all.
And if you are too late for mosquito attack protection, you can find out how to relieve those itchy bites right here. Want to know the buzz about mosquitoes? Just explore my site and find out everything you ever wanted to know about your friendly neighborhood buzzing insects.