Why Do Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears?
Aedes albopictusI would write a brilliant blog tonight, but I am tired. Not because of bad dreams or pressure at work. No, I am sleepy because of a small winged, creature who snuck into my room and proceeded to offer a high pitched tone directly into my ear. When I turned on the lights to find it, it was not there. When I gave up and attempted sleep, buzzzz… or maybe zzzzinnng? I would find the perfect word, but as mentioned, I am too tired.
Mosquitoes are actually the most dangerous animals in the world, killing more than two million people per year. In the United States alone, there are 150 different species, each carrying a different type of disease. The most common species found in the U.S. include the Aedes albopictus, Culex pipiens and Anopheles quadrimaculatus, but what I am interested in tonight is, why do they buzz? Why right in my ear? Why?
According to the West African tale, it happened this way: a mosquito said something foolish to the iguana who put sticks in his ears to hear no more of such foolishness. This frightened the next animal and thus created a chain of panic until a monkey killed an owlet which caused the mother owl to mourn and neglect her duties of waking the sun. The animals were furious with the mosquito. So, mosquitoes buzz in people's ears cause they are asking if everyone is still angry with them. I'm not buying it.
A ranger at a local park told me that since mosquitoes are attracted by the smell of carbon dioxide, given off by us when we exhale, perhaps the mosquitoes benefit from our jumping about when they try to buzz us, causing more breathing and more carbon goodness. Another expert said it was a little warning sign, a gift from nature, like a snake’s rattle. Another said the tone attracts the male. Then why in MY ear? Does anybody really know?
Here's a few things I do know:
I am now off to sleep with no answers, fearing another night of mystery buzz tones. If anyone can tell my why mosquitoes buzz in our ears, please do. With sleep and knowledge, I promise my next blog will be brilliant.
Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at The Oakland Zoo.Tags: kqed, kqedquest, QUEST, Science