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Basic Facts: Insect Communication
Insects and people both use touch, visual signals, and sound to pass on information to others. However, insects also have many different kinds of chemical signals. Insect communication can result in such responses as alarm, attraction, grooming, exchange of food and recognition.
Most touching involves the antennae and mouth parts, but not much of information is passed on by this form of communication. Ants often groom each other with their antennae and mouth parts. Honey bees do a waggle dance. It is in the shape of the number 8 and it is used to give directions on where a new field of flowers is located.
Several kinds of flies and beetles can make light. They use different codes of flashes to find and recognize and find each other. Each species of firefly has a different kind of flash pattern. Many butterflies and flies use colors for visual communication. Some insects have ultraviolet color on their wings and other insects turn bright red or orange when they feel threatened.
Sounds are caused by vibrations that can pass through air, water, and solid structures. Although people can hear crickets and cicadas, many insects make supersonic sounds above a person's range of hearing. Sounds can come from the insect rubbing their legs together or from the movement of their wings.
Many insects communicate with chemicals that are secreted by the insect's glands into the environment. Two of the different types of chemicals messages are pheromones and allomones. Pheromones are chemical messages for members of the same species. Allomones are messages that are directed towards different species for defense purposes.