Pellegrino et al., PLOS One, 2013.
Insect behaviour under different barometric pressure conditions.Frequency of different behaviours exhibited by three different insect species when subjected to stable, decreasing and increasing barometric pressure. A: The proportion of active D. speciosa males in Y-tube olfactometer to sex pheromone stimuli; B: The proportion of P. unipuncta and M. euphorbiae females exhibiting calling behaviour; C: The proportion of P. unipuncta and M. euphorbiae couples mating. **Indicates significant difference among treatments at 1%.
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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