An annoying mosquito (Culicidae) which kept me awake nearly the whole night lead me to this question.

I have heard that mosquitoes can smell CO2 which could help them to orientate in the darkness, but how do they avoid obstacles and know where to land? I was browsing the wikipedia article but did not see an explanation for this, can somebody explain this to me?

I also wonder about the purpose of their loud, annoying sound (afaik only females produce it), which i would think as an evolutinary disadvantage, but this would be another question...


2 Answers 2


What is the purpose of their loud, annoying sound?

Both males and females produce a sound when flying but not at the same frequency. I would think of the male sound as mainly an artefact of flying and don't really know if it has any usefulness. I would note though that before mating both gender tend to synchronize their sound (Gibson and Russel 2006). On the other hand males are very attracted toward the sound of females.

In nature, mosquitoes make swarms. Male's job in the swarm is find find female, courtship and mate. This means that males need a cue to detect them from far away and this cue is their sound. Males evolved large and fluffy antennas (with which they hear) while females only have small antennas Charlwood and Jones 2008.

enter image description here

How do they avoid obstacles?

They have eyes! It is never complete darkness and they just move around, see things and sometime bump into something and keep flying until they reach their goal.

I can't offer you a citation for that but as I worked with mosquitoes in the past, I think it is a good description.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. Do mosquitos have a very high light sensititvity? Because I can see barely nothing add night in my room, but they seem to navigate quite good. And when i turned on the light, they stop flying and hide till i turned it off again. $\endgroup$
    – kl78
    May 12, 2016 at 6:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You might get the info in Gabriella 2008 (I can't access the paper for the moment). I know that mosquito have a range of vision that is narrower than ours (they can't see red). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    May 12, 2016 at 13:56

Some researchers found that they may sense obstacle in the dark from the sound of their wing beating against the obstacle and modifying the air flow around them:

"Nocturnal mosquitoes exhibit a behavioral response to divert away from surfaces when vision is unavailable, indicating a short-range, mechanosensory collision-avoidance mechanism. We suggest that this behavior is mediated by perceiving modulations of their self-induced airflow patterns as they enter a ground or wall effect"

About the purpose of their their loud sound, indeed it is a disavantage for the female when flying close to their blood host, but it is believed to be a way to be heard by the male in the mating swarm. In addition, there is an auditory mechanism in mosquitoes which allow to use its own flight sound to amplify the sound of the nearby mate (ref1, ref2). The "harmonic convergence" theory (ref3; saying that mosquitoes actively changes their wingbeat frequency to harmonize between each other) starts being out of date (ref4).


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .