Singing with the Insect Choir: A culicomorpha swarm reacting to voices of two scientists

In 1861, the entomologist Osten-Sacken refers to a Cuban naturalist who once told him that whenever the note ‘A’ was played by a band, the swarm of mosquitoes hovering over his head suddenly flew downward toward his face.

More recently, during their research on mosquitoes and chironomids, scientists Lionel Feugère and Gabriella Gibson also noticed how these insects react to the sound of their voices. A musical relationship unfolds as night falls on the marshes of Northward Hill in northern Kent.

Short film by Robin Meier Wiratunga
Photography by Aurélie Cenno
Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
RSPB Northward Hill, North Kent Marshes
Funded by Human Frontier Science Program Research Grant No. RGP0038/2019

– Osten-Sacken, C. R. (1861), Mückenschwärme und Musik. Ent. Zeitung. Stettin, p. 52.
– Maxim, H. S. (1901), The Times, Mosquitoes and musical notes. Letter to the Editor, p. 11, 28 October.
– Knab, F. (1906). The Swarming of Culex Pipiens, Psyche 13: 123-133 (PDF)
– Feugère, L., Gibson, G., Noûs, C. (2022), ”Comment l’entomologie et la musique peuvent se nourrir l’une de l’autre : le cas de la communication acoustique des moustiques”, dans Lassauzet, B. et Montandon, A. (dir.), Les insectes et la musique, coll. “Gream”, Hermann, Paris, p. 37-57. ISBN 9791037022493 (PDF)
– Feugère, L., Simões, P.M.V., Russell, I.J. and Gibson, G. (2022). The role of hearing in mosquito behaviour. Chapter 26. In: Ignell, R., Lazzari, C.R., Lorenzo, M.G. and Hill, S.R. (eds.) Sensory ecology of disease vectors. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands, pp. 683-708. (PDF: