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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2008

Can the Different Types of Bugs Understand What Each Other Says?

by  Digger Doug

Dear Jennifer,

This is an excellent question. All animals communicate. Of course, insects don’t talk to each other in the same way that you talk to other people. However, they use their senses to get information about the world around them, and use various signals to send messages to each other. For example, because some insects can’t see well, they send vibrations through the ground or plants to warn each other of approaching danger. In the case of honeybees, a special dance notifies other bees of the distance to food.

By releasing chemicals called pheromones, ants guide others in their colonies to food sources, mark territory, and identify themselves. Ants also make an “alarm” by clicking their mandibles. You pprobably have heard crickets, katydids, grasshoppers, cicadas, and other insects chirping. Usually, these sounds attract females and repel rival males. We have learned that some different types of bugs can communicate with other types. For instance, some ants protect tiny bugs called aphids that produce a sweet substance the ants like to eat. Thankfully, God provided each animal with exactly what it needs to fill its role in the natural life cycle, which includes communication.

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