Which predicts weather more accurately? Your local weatherman? Or bug sex?
This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.
Before storms, we humans head for shelter. But critters do too! Birds, mammals, even some fish.
Entomologists in Brazil wondered: What about bugs? Many insects’ behavior indicates they likely do sense weather changes. But can research prove it?
To find out, the entomologists selected three insects. The curcurbit beetle, the armyworm moth and the potato aphid. They placed each in a controlled lab setting and simulated different barometric pressures. They also blew female bug hormones toward the males, to entice them to mate.
What happened? Under normal barometric pressure, the bugs behaved normally. But when pressure dropped, like it would before a storm, things changed! Males either lost interest in mating, or they tried to mate super fast! Hurry! Storm’s a coming!
The researchers say the behavior is probably not about rain exposure. Bugs, after all, have built in umbrellas: their exoskeletons! More likely it’s to avoid wind. One big gust could blow a bug away from food and potential mates. Or even cause death.
And now, for the weather report. Here's Fred, with his terrarium of bugs! Or not.
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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.