The real reason why mosquitoes buzz | DIY Neuroscience, a TED series
100 Comments


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Krystian Aparta (Mosquito buzzing) Greg Gage: We’ve all heard
the annoying sound of a mosquito, and we will stop at nothing
to make it go away. While this sound may be maddening to us, perhaps it’s music to a mosquito’s ears. The mosquito’s nervous system has almost
as many sensory auditory cells as we do. But why would they have
so many in such a small body, and why would they need to be
so sensitive to sounds? The answer is love. [DIY Neuroscience] (Music) As humans, we do a lot
to attract each other. Some things are conscious — we put on makeup
and make sure we smell nice. And some are unconscious. You may unconsciously point your body
or even sit closer to someone you like. These are courtship behaviors,
and a lot of animals have them. And mosquitoes are no different. So Haley’s been spending her summer
bravely listening to mosquitoes, and what she observed may surprise you. So we want to investigate
how the mosquitoes make their song. So Haley, how do we record
their wing beats? Haley Smith: We need to tether them. First, we anesthetize them
in a fridge or a bed of ice. And then I transfer them
to this petri dish of ice, just to get them even more anesthetized. Next, I take an insect pin, and what I do is put a tiny little dab
of superglue on this pin. I want to make sure that I get it
on his thorax above his wings so that when he is suspended,
his wings are still free to move. So here’s one down. It’s really hard to catch
male mosquitoes in the wild because females are the only mosquitoes
that are attracted to humans. They feed on human blood. And now, we can try to get
some recordings from them. So this is the stand
that I use to hold them. I like to place it
right over the microphone so that I can get a recording
of the buzzing that you hear. That sound is generated
by how fast they’re beating their wings. This is a male. The males have very bushy antennae,
and they look kind of feathery. And they are also much smaller. GG: So he’s flying at around 600 hertz. Can we try a female mosquito? HS: Sure, here we go. (Mosquito buzzing, lower pitch) GG: Wow. HS: This is a much lower
frequency than the male. GG: Yeah, it sounds completely different. (Mosquito buzzing) (Mosquito buzzing, lower pitch) So is it because they’re
two different mosquitoes, or because they’re male and female? HS: It’s because
they’re male and female. GG: Alright, let’s verify that. Can you bring in another female
and see if she sounds like mosquito A or mosquito B? HS: Yeah. (Mosquito buzzing, lower pitch) And again, she is much lower
than the male. GG: Yeah, she sounds different. (Mosquito buzzing, lower pitch) Yeah, she’s spot-on 400. HS: She really is.
GG: That’s really bizarre. HS: The females are at a much
lower pitch. They were around 400 hertz. HS: And all of the females
were around that, too. They were much larger than the males, so they didn’t have to flap their wings
as fast to stay in free flight. GG: So they have larger wings,
so they’re flapping slower. And you noticed that all the females
have the same frequency, roughly? And the males do, too.
That’s kind of interesting. So that must mean something. Well, let’s see what happens when
we put the male and the female together. (Mosquitoes buzzing; pitch varies) HS: When I put them
into the same hearing range, I noticed that they were kind of
changing their tones. It was kind of more dull, almost. (Mosquitoes buzzing) And when I put it back in my spectrogram
to see their interaction, they were meeting at the same tone. GG: OK, pause. The males and females are singing a duet, meaning that they adjust their wings
to be able to produce a common tone. You have the male singing up here at G, and you have the female
singing down here at D, and when they get together, you’re saying that they change
the frequency of their wings such that they come together? HS: Yeah, exactly.
GG: And they sort of sing a duet. (Mosquitoes gradually
adjusting to identical pitch) HS: They’re communicating
to let each other know that they’ve basically
found a potential mate. GG: So in other words, the female tends to choose
a male that best sings her duet. And studies have found
that if she’s pregnant, she doesn’t even bother. So if we can understand
the mosquito mating behavior, we may be able to disrupt it in the wild
and prevent diseases like malaria. But for now, the next time
you hear a mosquito buzzing, just pause and remember she may be in love and she may be singing her song, looking for her perfect match. (Mosquito buzzing) (Smack)

100 thoughts on “The real reason why mosquitoes buzz | DIY Neuroscience, a TED series

  1. So 400Hz and 600Hz 'come together' and the mosquitoes suddenly make 1200Hz each?? No, you just recorded a harmonic.

    Or maybe tortured screams of agony, could be either.

  2. I've asked so many scientists, entomologists, biologists, and doctors what the purpose of mosquitoes in the ecological system. To this date, I've had no answer from anyone of them. A human activist lawyer living in mosquito infested African region told me they were needed to propagate some plants. If anyone knows the reason why, please let me know. My cheeky friend tells me they are created because mosquito coil manufacturers can make business and job opportunities!!!

  3. Feminists Are Not Happy With This Video Because It Shows That Male Mosquitoes Wings Are Much Stronger (LOUDER) Than The Female Wings.

  4. Love? Are you freaking kidding me?! Mosquitos are incapable of love, as love requires pair bonding (at the least). Conflating love with reproductive mating is reductive and stupid.

    I guess the writer(s) think that a mindless heteronormative framing of sexual mating is the only way to engage the attention of the hoi polloi by making it more "understandable". Either that or they just aren't very thoughtful about the broader implications of what they write because that would require effort and/or caring and/or an understanding of socio-cultural dynamics. (It's probably that one.)

  5. They are not looking for a perfect match if they change the way they beat their wings. So dumb to say it's because of love that they buzz. They buzz because that's the sound their wings produce when they fly and the pitch is inversely proportional to their body size.

  6. Note to self :
    -Record the sound of both male and female mosquitoes
    -Get an electric wire
    -Combine the electric wire with a speaker
    -Put it on the roof and backyard of my house
    -Mosquito is dead

  7. 4:07 Well. There is one thing you didn't account for and that is that for objects in close quarters oscillation tend to to proliferate in a similar manner. It's a physics thing, look it up. Basically the fact that they are so close to each other actually provides the effect of synchronizing the wing speeds on a purely physical level. I has nothing to do with mosquitoes choices probably. Not only that, have you actually taken some time to think about how would a mosquito even be able to control the speed of it's wings since obviously the whole time you have them flapping their wings alone their wing speed didn't change one bit. Suspicious isn't it. I think you people need to stop making sensationalist claims before researching all the possibilities.

  8. Pure physics, nothing with mosquitoes being in love. Bodies in oscillation tend to oscillate in unison just like their wings when brought close together. End of story. This whole shenanigans video story is pathetic and fake and false.

  9. Maybe they noticed that they where kind of glued there. I don't think they really wanted to mate, right then, and if it is so, they only had more reason to swear out of their mind. I think they are wiser than those pseudo psyentifics. Can we test on them if while glued they'll…

  10. Sum super glue and a mic, really? This is 2018!! We should have nanobots to attract and sterilize each and everyone of these mofos.

  11. Females are quieter to sneak up on humans. Learned behavior to get their food source the blood of human or other animal.

  12. 20% chance that I hit her in the air.
    Another 60% when they sat down quietly.
    40% in case of an emergency staging of the animal.

    So if I hear mosquitoes, their death is certain.
    Every summer the same of the carpets or the wise wall full of corpses disgusting

  13. Female scientist? O…K… ,now im not surprise it ends up with that love thing pff

    That's why i have been always against female in serious type of occupation, like science/politic. Nearly all of they are so much towards the emotion zone, and that can definitely fucked up the analysis in science research /or decision in politic. Go do art stuffs, or acting career…, that'll be more suitable for them with their softened minds.

  14. FAIL!!! SO not true! i don´t know if anyone studied music, but i did and it's absolutly clear that both frequencies DO NOT JOIN! How is it possible to make such a pseudo science video with the TED brand?? please contest and explain me (us…) THanks

  15. Weakness of mosquito make a frequency of 600hz from a electric pan or smt and kill em all now moving on the flies ….damn

  16. So could scientists determine if there is a sound that could be produced that they do not like and will actually make them try to go away from it ????

  17. i dont kill mosiquitoes, because, if i swat them and kill them, first, a disgusting bugs body is on me and second, some random person bitten blood is on my skin

  18. Although I do think experiments are necessary but this one is quite CRUEL!!
    Mosquitos are also ALIVE beings which feel pain & other emotions!
    My question is HOW DO YOU free them OFF the glue once you are done with them?
    Or do you just 'cold bloodily' murder them?

  19. ..or she may be about to die cause I'm about to clap my hands fiercely over it. Pretty video though. After suffering many bouts of malaria, not even a cute vid like this can make me like mosquitoes.

  20. I HAD A MOSQUITO FLYING AROUND MY BED AND BITING ME BUT I COULDNT FIND IT AT ALL. SO I PLAYED THIS VIDEO. IT TOOK THE BAIT AND I HIT IT.
    GUYS GUYS I JUST CATFISHED A MOSQUITO.

  21. I’m looking at this because I think there’s a mosquito in my room but I think it’s a male so I’m good

  22. I am sleeping everynight in my room i always hear mosquito buzz when i put on a light i see atleast 10 mosquitos in my room LIKE I CAN'T SLEEP BECAUSE of that and basically yeah (: any tips ?

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