After decades of unsuccessful attempts to use soundwaves to fight disease-carrying mosquitos, a team of scientists claims to have found the secret ingredient: Skrillex.
A recent scientific study, published in the journal Acta Tropica on March 25 (not April Fool’s Day, apparently), has investigated whether the single Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex could act as a repellent for Aedes aegypti, a mosquito species that spreads dengue fever, Zika, and yellow fever.
It turns out, mosquitos are not fans of late-noughties electronic music. An international team of scientists from Malaysia, the Cayman Islands, and Japan subjected one tank of mosquitos to the music while another just sat in silence. They documented any changes to their behavior. Strangely, no other songs, genres, or soundwaves were investigated. Their results suggest that mosquitos subjected to intense dubstep music reduced both their blood-feeding activity and rate of mating.
“The electronic music acted both as an anti-mosquito attack factor and as a mating disrupting agent,” the study concludes. “Females entertained with music attacked hosts much later than their non-entertained peers.”
The researchers didn’t go into the mechanisms behind this phenomenon, but they (very vaguely) suggested it could be something to do with sound playing an important role in the sexual interactions and survival of many insects.
“We used this electronic song in the experiments due to its loudness and pitch, which are two factors considered to contribute to noisiness,” the study authors write. “Although we did not assess its amplitude and frequency, the strong sound pressure/vibration and constantly rising pitches emanating from the speaker placed close to the experimental cages indicated that the song was loud and noisy.
"As music is loved by many people, the development of music-based anti-mosquito control measures may represent an appealing alternative to strategies involving the use of harmful chemical insecticides," they added.
So, should we be pumping the rainforests with bass-heavy electronic music in a bid to protect the world from tropical diseases? We wouldn’t count on it. Outside of this super-specific study, there’s not much evidence that sound can repel mosquitos. Even those commercially available ultrasound mosquito repellent devices are, according to scientists, totally useless.
In fact, other pieces of research have suggested that soundwaves could actually attract mosquitoes, rather than repel them. This is actually pretty useful in itself. One study looked to exploit this fact and used it to draw mosquitoes into sound-baited traps.