EDM stands for “Electronic Dance Music.” You’re probably familiar with it to some degree, if only in passing, but either way, give a brief listen to this song (via YouTube). That song, titled “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” is by Skrillex (above), perhaps one of the best-known EDM artists. The song is has a fast tempo, a lot of repeating segments, very few vocals, and a lot of sounds which typically can’t be made without using a computer. It’s not something you’d typically hear on a Top 40 radio station, but Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites was quite popular when it came out; it peaked at number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. And it earned Skrillex the Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording in 2012.
But if you don’t like it, you aren’t alone. Mosquitoes hate it, too.
In many areas, mosquitoes are an irritant — their bites are itchy and bothersome. But in many places, mosquitoes are dangerous, spreading disease throughout communities. According to the CDC, which dubs the insect “the world’s deadliest animal,” mosquitoes “[spread] diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and lymphatic filariasis,” many of which are difficult to treat and have high fatality rates.
So the science community is constantly on the lookout for ways to fight back against these tiny threats. And they’ll go to great lengths to find solutions — even ones that involve EDM. That’s why, in 2019, a team of researchers ended up publishing a paper, here, titled “The Electronic Song ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ Reduces Host Attack and Mating Success in the Dengue Vector Aedes Aegypti.” Vice explains the basics of the investigation:
For the experiment, scientists created two environments in which to study the feeding and mating behaviors of Aedes aegypti, otherwise known as the yellow fever mosquito: One that was silent, and one that had “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” blasting out of a nearby speaker. In each case, a swarm of hungry female mosquitoes who’d gone 12 hours without a meal were put into a cage with a restrained hamster.
As you’d expect, the mosquitoes in the Skrillex-free environment went to town on the hamster. But the ones exposed to the song did not fare so well. As the BBC reported, “female adult mosquitoes were ‘entertained’e by the track and attacked hosts later and less often than those in a dubstep-free environment.” The pests also “had sex ‘far less often’ than mosquitoes without music,” meaning there’d be fewer mosquitoes in the future (in case you needed that explained). In other words, the Skrillex track made even very hungry mosquitoes a little more chill.
While it’s not entirely clear why this happens, Live Science relays the most promising theory: the song’s “excessive loudness and constantly escalating pitch made it a prime candidate for ‘noisiness,” and, as a result, the “aggressive vibrations may have confused mosquitoes who were trying to synchronize their wing beats.” So if you’re in an area with a lot of mosquitoes but Skrillex isn’t your jam, not to worry — there may be other songs that yield a similar result.
From the Archives: Teen-Away: It talks about mosquitoes and annoying noise, but it’s not what you think.