Antenna-inspired system detects pathogenic mosquitoes

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When trying to eradicate disease-causing mosquitoes, it is important to know when and where the target species’ biting females are present. An experimental new device could help by mimicking the insect’s hearing aid.

Although mosquitoes do not have ears in the traditional sense, they have antennae covered with feathery hair. These hairs vibrate when hit by sound waves and send signals through approximately 15,000 nerve cells to the auditory center in the animals’ brains.

When another person is nearby, a mosquito emits sound waves that even it cannot hear … or at least not initially. These waves are distorted by the fast flapping wings of the other mosquito and reflected back to the original insect. With its feather-light antenna, this mosquito can not only hear the echo of its sound waves, but also determine the gender and type of the other mosquito based on the different ways in which the waves are distorted.

The prototype that was set up in a laboratory with mosquito nets

Ziemer

Under the direction of Dr. Tim Ziemer, scientists at the University of Bremen have developed a microphone-based device that is inspired by these antennas. It sends out sound waves and then uses a combination of speech recognition tools and machine learning algorithms to analyze the distortion of the echoes it receives.

In this way, the type and gender of the nearby flying mosquitoes can be determined. Due to the antenna-like structure of the device, the setup is also better than conventional audio processing techniques to filter out disturbing background noise.

It is hoped that as the technology evolves, it can be used on-site to control disease-causing mosquitoes while limiting the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

The research was presented this week through the 179th online meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

Source: Acoustical Society of America via EurekAlert

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