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Why does the noise from my neighbour not bother insects - they can hear, can't they?

Sent in by Elizabeth Jane Bouttell, Norwich, Norfolk

Insects come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes. Although they can react to light, smell, taste, touch and sound, they do not do so in the same way as humans. Insect sense organs, although comparatively small in size, are large in number and are located on various parts of their bodies.

Different insects have different ways of dealing with sound. We have only to think of the noise that grasshoppers make by rubbing parts of their body together to realise that sound plays an important role in insect communication. Take the hairs of a caterpillar for example. These are not only sensitive to touch, but also respond to sound waves. When hearing a sound such as the buzzing of an approaching predatory fly or wasp, caterpillars react by moving the front (and sometimes) back part of the body either upwards or sideways. The caterpillar of the large (cabbage) White butterfly is known to react in this way.

Grasshoppers, crickets and some moths have tympanal organs, which enable them to ‘hear’. These tiny organs are covered with drum-like membranes, which vibrate in response to sound. In crickets, the tympanal organs are situated on each of their forelegs, just below their knees and in some moths, tympanal organs can be found on either side of their thorax, which is the area of the body that lies between the head and abdomen.  Moths, which respond to high pitch squeaking, do so by vibrating their wings or by flying or running. Though humans and other mammals respond to loud sounds in a variety of ways, it is unlikely that such sounds would have a detrimental effect on insects.

Benificial insects

Attracting insects into your garden can be very beneficial for a variety of reasons. Many insects can act as natural pest controllers and others are useful for pollinating garden plants. You can encourage insects; by avoiding the use of chemicals in your garden, by planting suitable flowers, shrubs and trees and by providing artificial insect boxes. Click here for more information on providing ideal homes for insects in your garden.

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