Communication

Insects communicate in many different ways. Many insects use pheromones, sound, and light to communicate.

One of the most common forms of communication among insects is chemical communication involving pheromones. A pheromone (FER-uh-MOHN) is a chemical released by an animal that affects the behavior or development of other members of the same species through the sense of smell or taste. Pheromones play a major role in the behavior patterns of many insects. For example, you may have noticed ants, like those in Figure 37-9, marching along a tightly defined route on the ground. The ants are following a trail of pheromones left by the ants that preceded them. Such trails are often laid down by ants that have found a source of food as they make their way back to the nest. As other ants follow the trail, they too deposit pheromones, so the trail becomes stronger as more ants travel along it.

Pheromones are also used for other purposes. For example, honeybees use pheromones to identify their own hives and to recruit other members of the hive in attacking animals that threaten the hive. Some insects secrete pheromones to attract mates. The female silkworm moth, for example, can attract males from several kilometers away by secreting less than 0.01 pg of a pheromone. Sensory hairs on the large antennae of a male moth make it exquisitely sensitive to the pheromone.

Many insects communicate through sound. Male crickets produce chirping sounds by rubbing a scraper located on one forewing against a vein on the other forewing. They make these sounds to attract females and to warn other males away from their territories. Each cricket species produces several calls that differ from those of other cricket species. In fact, because many species look similar, entomologists often use a cricket's calls rather than its appearance to identify its species.

objectives

• Identify three ways that insects communicate, and give an example of each.

• Describe the social organization of honeybees.

• Explain how honeybees communicate information about the location of food.

vocabulary pheromone social insect innate behavior worker bee queen bee drone royal jelly queen factor altruistic behavior kin selection figure 37-9

These leaf-cutter ants, Atta colombica, are following a pheromone trail as they carry sections of leaves to their underground nest.

These leaf-cutter ants, Atta colombica, are following a pheromone trail as they carry sections of leaves to their underground nest.

Mosquitoes communicate through sound, too. Males that are ready to mate fly directly to the buzzing sounds produced by females. A male senses the buzzing by means of sensory hairs on his antennae that vibrate only at the frequency produced by females of the same species.

Insects may also communicate by generating flashes of light. Fireflies, for example, use light to find mates. Males emit flashes in flight, and females flash back in response. Each species of firefly has its own pattern of flashes, which helps males find females of the same species.

figure 37-10

In a honeybee colony, worker bees perform the work of the hive, while drones and the queen are involved exclusively with reproduction.

figure 37-10

In a honeybee colony, worker bees perform the work of the hive, while drones and the queen are involved exclusively with reproduction.

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