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Love hertz

Researchers find the perfect pitch to attract male mosquitoes

Date:
January 7, 2016
Source:
James Cook University
Summary:
Sex sells when it comes to luring male mosquitoes, a new study has found. Researchers set out to make a cheap and effective audio lure for scientists collecting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes -- the species that carries dengue and yellow fever. They found a tone of precisely 484 Hertz, the frequency of a female Aedes aegypti's wings, brought 95 percent of male mosquitoes to the trap.
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Mosquito trap with sound-lure attached.
Credit: Image courtesy of James Cook University

James Cook University researchers have found sex sells when it comes to luring male mosquitoes.

Senior Research Officer Brian Johnson and Professor Scott Ritchie set out to make a cheap and effective audio lure for scientists collecting male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes -- the species that carries dengue and yellow fever.

They found a tone of precisely 484 Hertz, the frequency of a female Aedes aegypti's wings, brought 95 percent of male mosquitoes to the trap.

Mr Johnson said the device cost around $20 and could be run by itself for weeks. "We started with a cheap mobile phone and moved to an even cheaper MP3 player. There are no harmonics, it's a pure tone and very simple to produce."

The effectiveness of the audio lure is easy to see: when it's switched on, mosquitoes flock to the device, and fly away as soon as it's turned off.

The invention of the audio trap is timely: male mosquitoes do not bite, but new anti-mosquito strategies involve capturing and sterilising them before releasing them to breed unsuccessfully with females.

"There are a number of projects underway," said Mr Johnson. "They required capturing and releasing tens of thousands of male mosquitoes, but most traps are aimed at capturing females."

He said there was no chance of eliminating mosquito populations by trapping males alone, as only a few needed to survive to continue the breeding cycle.

The scientists also found that female mosquitoes were completely oblivious to the sound of male wing beats. "There's no real need for females to respond to male overtures," said Mr Johnson.

The team is now optimising the trap for field use and coordinating with trap manufacturers to add the feature to their products.


Story Source:

Materials provided by James Cook University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brian J. Johnson, Scott A. Ritchie. The Siren’s Song: Exploitation of Female Flight Tones to Passively Capture MaleAedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology, 2015; tjv165 DOI: 10.1093/jme/tjv165

Cite This Page:

James Cook University. "Love hertz: Researchers find the perfect pitch to attract male mosquitoes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160107094424.htm>.
James Cook University. (2016, January 7). Love hertz: Researchers find the perfect pitch to attract male mosquitoes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 27, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160107094424.htm
James Cook University. "Love hertz: Researchers find the perfect pitch to attract male mosquitoes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160107094424.htm (accessed September 27, 2016).