What’s the News: Biochemists at the University of Arizona have found a promising new way to fight disease-carrying mosquitoes. In their research project, published in the journal PNAS, the scientists blocked mosquitoes’ ability to digest blood, making blood-sucking deadly to the winged pests. This technique could someday be used alongside other strategies to battle mosquitoes, like repellents and traps.
A mosquito‘s whiny buzz may be one of the most annoying noises to human ears, but for some mosquitoes it’s an intricate love song. A new study of the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which carries the infectious diseases dengue fever and yellow fever, has shown that when males and females mate they adjust the speed of their beating wings until their two buzzes combine to produce a harmonious tone. And this isn’t just gee-whiz science: Researchers say the finding could help in the fight against the disease-carrying insects.
The male mosquito’s buzz, or flight tone, is normally about 600 cycles per second, or 600-Hz. The female’s tone is about 400-Hz. In music, he’s roughly a D, and she’s about a G. So the male brings his tone into phase with the female’s to create a near-perfect duet. Together, the two tones create what musicians call an overtone — a third, fainter tone at 1200-Hz. Only then will the mosquitoes mate [NPR]. Researchers were surprised that the mosquitoes could detect the overtone, because they previously believed that A. aegypi males couldn’t hear frequencies above 800-Hz, and the females were thought to be completely deaf.