Saturday, 7 February 2009

Ant music

Well, not really, but did anyone else hear the article on BBC Radio 4 yesterday about naturalists who had managed to insert microphones and a tiny speaker into an ants' nest? Apparently it has been known for some time that these insects make sounds when they are under threat and of course any disturbance of their nest will be seen as hostile. On this occasion the researchers succeeded in recording sounds of 'happy' ants. Different ants make different sounds, depending on their function in the colony, in order to communicate with their fellows. The sounds were played back to them and their behaviour observed.

This was all done in order to learn how some insects manage to live as aliens inside ant colonies by tricking their hosts into believing they are neither aggressors nor food. I have searched the BBC for more about this and drawn a blank. I must assume I have received a lesson in the importance of attentive listening but it is something I will try to follow up.

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