Mosquitoes: the bane of summertime fun. They turn fun picnics into swat-fests, distract you from your grilling in the backyard leading to burnt burgers, and leave you itchy and cranky even when you’re supposed to be having fun. Bug spray can be expensive, ineffective, and smelly; Citronella candles smell nice but don’t always get the job done. Mosquitoes have become an accepted albeit awful part of summertime life.
But scientists have recently stumbled upon an unusual potential cure for these hordes of blood-sucking bugs: dubstep. A recent study published by the journal Acta Tropica showed a lower rate of mosquito bites when dubstep was playing in the background. Specific dubstep, too: one song, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” by American dubstep group Skrillex, led to a shocking decrease in the number of mosquito bites reported by listeners.
Is it too good to be true, or could rocking out to some Skrillex at your next beach bonfire really prevent you from those annoying and uninvited party guests? You don’t have to use yourself as a test subject to find out.
How Does It Work?
Mosquitoes rely on sound to live, just like many species of animals and insects. Mosquitoes don’t have ears, but they can still get sound cues from other animals and from their surroundings telling them when it’s time to mate, time to leave a certain area, and time to up their reproductive game. So it is not completely implausible that people could start using sound to tell mosquitoes to get away or to stop their biting.
Different levels of vibrations have been shown to change the ways mosquitoes behave, so Skrillex tracks with their frequent mixes of high and low frequencies were the perfect choice for testing. Low-frequency vibrations can bring about increased sexual activity in the insects while other frequencies can disrupt the way the bugs see and interpret their environment.
During the study, there were fewer instances of bloodsucking while the music was being played, which is a hopeful sign of even better things to come. Not only do fewer bites mean less itching, but this finding also supports the theory that people really can impact the behavior of mosquitoes with music and sound.
Has This Been Done Before?
Sound testing mosquitoes isn’t new. In fact, there are still plenty of apps that claim to repel mosquitoes and prevent bites with the sound waves they produce. Unfortunately… they don’t work.
Many of these apps focus on producing a sound that can’t be heard by the typical adult person (although it might seriously bug younger kids or other animals). The theory is that mosquitoes, like little kids, will be able to hear the ultrasonic sounds and want to stay as far away as possible. The theory behind the ultrasonic mosquito repellants is a little different than that of dubstep: the ultrasonic sounds are meant to mimic the sounds of mosquitoes natural predators (bats or dragonflies, for example), instead of tap into their basic interpretations of situations based on sound.
Unfortunately for the many who have tried (including radio broadcasters who have attempted playing these ultrasonic sounds across radio waves), these apps usually don’t work. A trial completed in a strictly controlled environment showed no difference in mosquito appearance or biting in houses that employed the ultrasonic device as opposed to houses just going about their normal business.
Why Not Try it?
Mosquitoes are irritating, sure, and bug bites are no fun. Even more serious than itchy bites are the diseases carried by mosquitoes. Yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis… the list goes on and on. Skrillex and its dubstep kin could be the next step in saving summer, but also in saving lives.