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Insect Weather Prediction

October 2, 2013

Insects may be able to “predict” the weather by changing their behavior when they sense changes in air pressure.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Insects barometers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Giant silk moth. (Jeremy McNeil)

Imagine you’re a small insect flying around looking for a mate. If the weather turns nasty, your amorous pursuits could get you killed.

JEREMY MCNEIL (Western University, Ontario):

Flying in a storm is not a very good thing, because you could get blown off track, you could get hit by a raindrop, which of course for an insect is a bit like you being hit by an automobile, it’s a very large drop relative to the size of an individual.

HIRSHON:

That’s entomologist Jeremy McNeil of Western University in Ontario. He and his colleagues experimentally manipulated atmospheric pressure to see if insects can predict upcoming storms. They found that three different kinds of insects curtail their mating behavior when the pressure changes, suggesting that they’re more concerned with staying alive than reproducing when stormy weather looms. McNeil says there’s evidence that other animals such as bats can predict bad weather as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.