The British summertime can be responsible for days full of sunshine, and also miserable stormy conditions.
We have seen plenty of both this summer, with heatwaves hitting record-breaking temperatures and storms causing floods across areas of the UK.
It is has been said that these extreme weather conditions could become the norm, as the effects of climate change become more evident, making the weather even more unpredictable than normal.
It makes the ability to predict the weather even more desirable, but did you know that it is supposedly a skill that many insects already possess?
Here is everything you need to know…
Can insects predict the weather?
For hundreds of years, people have looked to the behaviour of animals on the planet to help them predict the weather forecast.
Attention to insects and spiders, in particular, have helped many, from farmers to sailors, predict what they think the weather is going to do next.
For example, folklore says ‘If ants their walls do frequent build,/ Rain will from the clouds be spilled’ – this means that ants tend to get busy ahead of rainfall, as do spiders and woodlice.
Alternatively, when spiders look to be busy building webs in the middle of the day, that is taken as a sign that the weather shall remain clear.
Other examples of insect-related weather folklore include: :
- See how high the hornet’s nest, ‘twill tell how high the snow will rest.
- If ant hills are high in July, the coming winter will be hard.
- When bees to distance wing their flight, days are warm and skies are bright; But when their flight ends near their home, stormy weather is sure to come.
- The early arrival of crickets on the hearth means an early winter.
- The more quickly crickets chirp, the warmer the temperature.
While most of this is superstition, there has been some scientific evidence to suggest that the behaviour in insects does change depending on the incoming weather conditions, particularly in the case of rainfall.
When addressing a question about why flies tend to bite before a storm, Dr. Ken Paige – professor and associate head of the Department of Animal Biology at the University of Illinois – told the Chicago Tribune that insects and flies are ‘likely responding to falling barometric pressure preceding rainfall.’
Being caught in a rain shower can be devastating to a small insect, so being able to predict changes in the atmosphere helps them better prepare for adverse weather conditions.
Researchers in the lab of José Bento, an entomologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, have also discovered that certain insects tend to avoid having sex when there are drops in atmospheric pressure before rainfall.
They studied mating behaviour changes in the cucurbit beetle, the true armyworm moth, and the potato aphid under falling, stable, and increasing air pressure conditions.
What they found was a significant decrease in pheromone response when air pressure fell compared to stable or increasing pressure.
Under stable or rising air pressure conditions, all males showed displayed normal mating behaviour, showing that bad weather can be a mood killer for some insects.
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