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In the dark, mosquitoes use CO2 to find blood host like us. However, 1) they are known to have excellent auditory organs (ref1, ref2) and 2) sound can be heard from any directions, contrary to odors which follow the wind direction.

Do mosquitoes use our voice to find us?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 15, 2022 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that mosquitoes main food is flower nectar. Only the females bite for blood and only to feed their eggs. Humans are not a primary source for such blood so even though they can hear human speech, singling us out specifically would not be evolutionarily advantageous since they can also get blood from many other sources much more easily than from humans. We get bit as a crime of opportunity, but we're not a consequential source of blood for mosquitoes. We're also rather more dangerous to bite than other animals because we're quite good at striking back. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Feb 15, 2022 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @J... - While some of what you say is true, there are anthropophilic mosquitoes - human loving - which prefer human hosts, e.g. Anopheles species, which transmit diseases such as malaria, and some which use humans exclusively. $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2022 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse Well, TIL! $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Feb 15, 2022 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @dotancohen More likely acetone, lactic acid, and estradiol. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Feb 15, 2022 at 17:53

2 Answers 2

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Mosquitoes can hear the human voice. If they use human sound to hone in on us as a source of a blood feed is not known at this time, however research into this has just begun. This is especially useful research because of anthropophilic mosquitoes - human loving - which prefer human hosts, e.g. Anopheles species, which transmit diseases such as malaria, and some which use humans exclusively. If disease can be prevented by understanding the role of voice in attracting anthropophilic mosquitoes, it's well worth studying (even if only to develop mosquito traps.).

Until relatively recently, it was thought that a mosquito's acoustic abilities were very limited, and used mainly to detect the correct species and gender to mate with, as there are over 3000 species of mosquito (176+ in the US alone, the CDC states over 200), and they need to be able to determine which other mosquito would be a suitable mate. Most of the research honing in on their acoustic abilities has centered on males and their ability to detect females, e.g. in order to build traps to attract males to determine the efficacy of sterile male release into the wild, induce sterility in males, capturing and manipulating males genetically to introduce a dominant lethal gene, etc., hopefully limiting the population of those most deadly to humans without harming the environment. From this 2021 paper:

Early studies focused on mate-seeking male mosquito attraction to female wing-beats (Kahn and Offenhauser 1949), and female mosquito responses to male wing-beat frequencies in the laboratory and field (Ikeshoji 1981, Ikeshoji and Ogawa 1988). The fundamental wing-beat frequencies of male and female mosquitoes can vary by species (Table 2), so there has been interest in their use for surveillance and control efforts.

In the last 15 years, however, after studies emerged that some blood-feeding midges focused on host (or prey, if you prefer) vocalizations, some of that attention has turned to the acoustic capabilities of female mosquitoes. Multiple studies have shown that female mosquitoes known to feed on various species of frogs were attracted to traps using recordings of those frogs, and a few have shown the same in attraction of mosquitoes that feed on birds as hosts. Studies have shown that femaqle mosquitoes can detect sounds within the human vocal range at 10 meters away, and males even further (though male mosquitoes do not feed on blood.) But as of this year, no studies have been completed with regard to the response of female mosquitoes to human voive.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Studies have shown that femaqle mosquitoes can detect sounds within the human vocal range at 10 meters away". If you refer to Menda et al 2019, it seems that they exposed a male mosquito (not a female) to sound levels of 70 dB SPL located at 10m away from the loudspeaker (which is far louder than normal-speech at 10m away). Or was you referring to another study? $\endgroup$
    – Noil
    Feb 16, 2022 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Noil - OOf, I read a number of papers, I'm not sure which one(s) I read that in. But it's the hot thing to study now, so I saw that claim several times. I'll have a look when I get the time again, Thanks for asking. :) $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2022 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ "a few have shown the same in attraction of mosquitoes that feed on birds as hosts" Could you give the sources for this please? $\endgroup$
    – Noil
    Jul 12, 2023 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ I@Noil - I answered this question a year and a half ago. Don't you think asking me to revisit my research now is a little much? $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2023 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ no worry, it was just in case you knew, I'd be interested about it $\endgroup$
    – Noil
    Jul 13, 2023 at 12:06
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Mosquitos can certainly hear in the range of normal human speech. They are sensitive to the range of around 150-500Hz, and typical human speech is between 100-300Hz depending on your age and sex (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.026). Whether they use that auditory capability to zero in on humans, I do not know (and could find no indication that this is something known in the literature). I do know that the most important sense for mosquitos to find prey is olfaction.

The frequency sensitivity range surprised me actually. I was expecting the frequencies to be much higher. Some insects like moths are sensitive to ultrasound frequencies which helps them detect bats.

Based on the Göpfert et al. paper you listed, it appears that this hearing range tracks nicely with the sound frequency of mosquito flight. Without knowing really anything about the mosquito literature, I would hypothesize that this is no coincidence. I would guess they use hearing to determine the sex of other mosquitos (males and females produce different flight frequencies) for mating purposes. There is also evidence that their auditory abilities can help them in evasion from predators (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-81456-5).

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