Article Lead Image

Photo by Tom Turkle

Stanford students working on Shazam-like tool for identifying mosquitoes

Is that mosquito carrying West Nile?


John-Michael Bond


Posted on Nov 22, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 1:06 pm CDT

Thanks to diseases like West Nile and Zika, mosquitos can be deadly. Of course not all mosquitoes are alike, and only certain species carry each virus. Culex mosquitoes spread West Nile, while Aedes mosquitoes spread Zika. So how can you tell which mosquito is around you? According to the New York Times, students at Stanford University have a solution based on an idea you probably already have on your phone: Shazam, but for mosquitos.

Their research shows mosquitos can be identified by the sound of their wings beating. Mosquitoes use their beating wings to attract mates. These sounds are distinctive enough to identify individual species, all without having to take a picture and do a search. The most incredible aspect of their research is that you don’t even need a smartphone to use the mosquito-identifying tech. 

It works with old flip phones, which is key for impoverished areas. By crowdsourcing sound sample information around the world from phone users, the students involved in this project believe they can build a worldwide map showing mosquito distribution. Testing has occured in a California state park and in Madagascar to show proof of concept, but the crew’s work is ongoing.

Mosquito distribution work is traditionally handled by trapping the bugs and counting them by hand. While this sound-based research is still far off from being completed, it could develop into a crucial component in the fight against mosquito-spread diseases.

H/T New York Times

Share this article
*First Published: Nov 22, 2016, 8:52 pm CST