How to tell whether a mosquito is male or female (without getting bitten)
The mosquito on the left is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito on the right is his female counterpart. Viva la difference— and the difference is in the antennae.
The mosquito on the left is a male Aedes aegypti mosquito. The mosquito on the right is his female counterpart.
Viva la difference — and the difference is in the antennae. Mosquito antennae are lined with fine hairs called antennal flagellum, and the density of the flagellum differs from one sex to another. Males have many, many more antennal flagellum, turning their antennae into a pair of bushy bottle brushes. Megan Fritz, a post-doctoral student in the North Carolina State University department of entomology described them to me as the mosquitoes' mustache. Even though mosquitoes are tiny, the males' flagellum are prominently noticeable to the naked eye. Fritz can tell which mosquitoes are boys and which are girls, on sight.
Female Aedes aegypti do the biting. But they don't have nearly as many flagellum and, thus, their hearing is not nearly as finely tuned as that of male mosquitoes. That's because the men and the women are looking for different things.
Female mosquitoes are on the lookout for victims to bite. Like the males, they eat sugar. At the NCSU mosquito breeding facility, Megan Fritz feeds both males and females on sugar water. But, without regular meals of blood, the females lose their ability to reproduce. No blood, no baby mosquitoes. Unsurprisingly, then, female mosquitoes have special sensory abilities that allow them to find and procure blood.
Males, on the hand, are primarily interested in finding females. And that's where those thick flagellum come in. Turns out, the flagellum are integral to the mosquitoes' ability to hear. Specifically, all those flagellum help male mosquitoes hear the very, very, very quiet sounds of female mosquitoes buzzing around. Sound waves make the flagellum move. That movement is carried through the antenna to a special organ that helps the mosquitoes actually make sense of the motion. Called Johnston's organ, it can tell males how fast the wings of nearby mosquitoes are beating and it can help them distinguish male from female, and species from species.
• The Mosquito Reference Manual
• A research paper that explains how mosquitoes hear and how the antennal flagellum work
• Another paper that describes several ways that male mosquitoes use their antennae to explore their world
When Zoe Stavri woke up with a yeast infection, she had a strange and intriguing idea: what about adding some of her vaginal candida to sourdough starter?
Nick Sousanis, who delivered his doctoral dissertation in comic book form, has a new comic in the current Nature magazine, explaining the last 25 years’ worth of climate talks, as a primer in advance of the Paris climate talks next week.
Randall “XKCD” Munroe’s Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words arrives in stores today: it combines technical diagrams and wordplay in pure display of everything that makes XKCD brilliant and wonderful in every way.
The Code Black is our top-selling drone of all time—and for good reason. This powerful, palm-size drone is not only insanely fun to fly, but can capture some serious video footage from up above. With a flight time of about 10 minutes and an ultra-smooth ride, it’s a great introductory drone for anyone looking to […]
Don’t get handcuffed by Apple’s standard 3-foot Lightning cord (that you’ve most likely already lost), treat yourself to 10 feet of luxurious charging convenience. The Colossal is certified by Apple for its high-end quality, and designed to support full use of your phone while you power up. You can also get it in a 2-pack […]
Today and tomorrow only we are offering an additional 15% off the entire Boing Boing store (some exclusions may apply). Simply use coupon code: BLACKFRIDAY at checkout! Below are a few of our favorites from the store: First Generation Lytro 16GB Camera: The First Consumer Camera to Capture the Entire Light FieldAdobe Training Videos: Lifetime Subscription: 6,000+ Adobe […]