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Electronic music helps repel mosquitos: study

The research shows the music of dubstep artist Skrillex helps stop the insects from feeding, having sex

The research shows the music of dubstep artist Skrillex helps stop the insects from feeding, having sex

Mosquito season is fast approaching, but instead of reaching for the insect repellent sprays and lotions, Canadians may one day crank up some electronic music. (CBC)

Mosquito season is fast approaching, but instead of reaching for the insect repellent sprays and lotions, Canadians may one day crank up some electronic music.

For a new study, researchers in Asia subjected the mosquito that causes yellow fever to music by dubstep artist Skrillex — in particular the track Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, which they chose because of its mix of especially high and low frequencies.

The researchers found the music had a significant impact on the mosquito population in several ways.

First, mosquitos that were exposed to the music were nearly four times slower to go for blood than their counterparts who didn't get the Skrillex treatment, and their feeding activity was lower.

Second, the Skrillex track clearly didn't get mosquitos "in the mood": in fact, those that listened to the electronic music copulated far less often than their counterparts in a quiet environment.

For the study, the researchers used the mosquito Aedes aegypti, which is the insect most closely associated with dengue fever. It is also linked with Zika, yellow fever and other diseases, and lives in tropical or subtropical areas (not in Canada).

While the research might seem like a fun party trick, its aim is far more serious: despite advances in control technologies, disease-carrying Aedes mosquitoes still cause serious health problems around the world.

According to the study, titled The electronic song "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" reduces host attack and mating success in the dengue vector Aedes aegypti, insecticides have historically been the main way to combat mosquito populations, but in recent years many have lost their effectiveness. What's more, they can be harmful to other insect, plant and animal life.

As a result, many are calling for the development of more environmentally friendly strategies.

The music of dubstep master Skrillex may be an effective alternative to insecticides when it comes to keeping dengue-carrying mosquito populations down. (Matt Sayles/Associated Press)

Previous research has shown that dengue mosquitoes rely on sound to communicate, and to "speak" with the opposite sex, so the study authors wanted to examine whether interrupting those communications would have an effect.

"It is plausible that the presence of sound vibrations and continuous pitches induced stress and fear, thus resulting in a quiescent state in the insects," explains the study, which was published in the tropical disease journal Acta Tropica.

The study goes on to conclude that the music was clearly detrimental to the dengue mosquitos' feeding and reproductive activities.

"Thus, the electronic music acted both as an anti-mosquito attack factor and as a mating disrupting agent. These properties suggest the potential for development of music-based mosquito vector control strategies," reads the study conclusion.

"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."

The study did not examine the effects of the Skrillex song on nearby humans.

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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