Do mosquitoes still whine?

One night during the summer of 1977, my parents left me in charge in our bungalow while my sister slept and they went out together for a couple of hours. I stayed up, enjoying the stillness and the sound of crickets coming from outside, and (though I don’t specifically recall) more than likely re-reading Star Wars.

My repose was shattered by a faint high-pitched whine at the very edge of hearing. Eeeeeeeeeeee… a mosquito, buzzing in my ear!

I jumped up and spun around, trying to spot it. It landed on the wall. I smashed it; whew. I sat back down and resumed reading.

A few minutes later: Eeeeeeeeeeee! Jump up, hunt, smash, sit down. And then: Eeeeeeeeeeee! Jump up, hunt, smash, sit down. And again. And again. I started keeping count. I could no longer read. I was on heightened alert. Each time I sat back down I could only dart my eyes around the room, trying to spot the next mosquito, heart pounding, ears straining.

I had no particular fear of mosquitoes or of mosquito bites. I even sort of enjoyed getting them — they were so satisfying to scratch. (Even now, my worry about such things as West Nile virus is not very great.) But something about hearing them zeroing in on me made me crazy. They had to be destroyed.

By the time my parents came back, they found me in a wild-eyed feral state. I had annihilated seventy of the little bastards (this I do specifically recall) and was still hunting for more.

Fast-forward thirty years. I live on a different coast, in a different climate. There are still mosquitoes in summertime in Northern California, but nothing like there were in Monticello, New York. As recently as this past spring, the sound of “Eeeeeeeeeeee…” in the middle of the night could still rouse me from deep slumber all the way to frantic alertness in a single instant.

But I didn’t hear that sound all summer, though over the past few months I’ve spotted and swatted a goodly number of mosquitoes.

I know and accept the reality of age-related hearing loss, especially in high frequencies. In fact I’m almost too accepting of age-related decline. Soon after I turned forty last year, I got my first pair of prescription eyeglasses — after a quarter-century of expecting to need some any day now, but still not, as it turns out, needing them at all.

Still, I’m having a hard time accepting that these mosquitoes are keening their high-pitched whine as usual. After all, I can hear the famous “Mosquito” ringtones that made their way around the Internet recently. Can it be that we’ve had silent mosquitoes flying around? Is it possible I lost my hearing at only the precise frequency that mosquitoes emit?

Whatever the explanation, I look forward to no longer being jolted awake in the middle of the night just because a tiny insect wants a drop of my blood. Go ahead, drink up. Just be quiet about it.