Insect communication

December 21, 2017

Insect communication, silent and often deadly, features prominently among the remarkable experiments that are performed live during the three lectures that explore "The Language of Life" for this year's Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.

The three hour-long lectures, broadcast on BBC Four at 8pm from 26 to 28 December, explore the many forms of communication by humans and other life. They are presented by Sophie Scott, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.

For the second lecture, "Silent Messages", Scott is joined by Gia Aradottir, an entomologist from Rothamsted Research who specialises in insect-plant interactions. The episode considers how much humans say without opening their mouths and how animals make their points without a sound.

When Aradottir appears on set, her only obvious props are a family of aphids, some cabbage leaves for them to feed on and a microscope. But then she brandishes a syringe of aphid alarm pheromone, and a tub of parasitic wasps.

"Over two experiments, I wanted to show how aphids generate chemical signals [the pheromones] to alert other aphids to predators, and how the predators can use those signals to their advantage," says Aradottir.

"And we were very lucky with how our experiments turned out, even before a live theatre audience, under bright lights and in front of TV cameras," she notes. Details of those interactions, among aphids and between aphids and wasps, must wait for the broadcast, on the 27th. "What I can say is that it was a huge honour to take part in the Christmas lectures; I was probably more excited than the children in the audience," she adds. See video, My Day at the Christmas Lectures.

Aradottir's demonstrations at the Royal Institution reflect some of her current research underway in Zimbabwe where she is helping wheat farmers to find sustainable ways of protecting their crops from aphids without resorting to costly pesticides. See article, Trials to regain independence.
-end-
The other two lectures are broadcast on 26th and 28th December. "Say it with Sound" explores how humans and other animals use noises to communicate, from hissing cockroaches and groaning deer to the versatility of the human voice; and "The Word" seeks the source of linguistic ability.

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Tuesday-Thursday, 26-28 December, BBC Four 8-9pm.

Rothamsted Research

Related Aphids Articles from Brightsurf:

How maths modelling helps efforts to eradicate banana bunchy top virus, QUT study
Modelling the predicted movements of pervasive sap-sucking tiny insects before they infest banana crops has the potential to become a key tactic in the fight against a devastating virus, according to QUT research.

Ants or plants? Evolutionary diversification factors of aphids
The plant-feeding insect aphids are thought to have diversified by shifting their host plants to other closely related plant species.

Disease-causing virus manipulates crop plants to favor its vector
The virus that causes barley yellow dwarf, the most widespread disease of cereal crops, manipulates its host plant and insect vector to promote its own survival, according to an international team of researchers.

Symbiotic viruses help host insects override the plant's defenses
Aphids, small sap-sucking insects, are virus carriers responsible for significant economic losses in many crops worldwide.

Family of crop viruses revealed at high resolution for the first time
For the first-time we can take a molecular-level look at one of the world's deadliest crop killers.

CABI scientists track wheat aphids and their natural enemies for better pest management in Pakistan
For the first time, CABI scientists have studied the distribution and population dynamics of wheat aphids and their natural enemies in Pakistan through seasons and periods of time.

Virus genes help determine if pea aphids get their wings
Researchers from the University of Rochester shed light on the important role that microbial genes, like those from viruses, can play in insect and animal evolution.

BTI researchers discover interactions between plant and insect-infecting viruses
Aphids and the plant viruses they transmit cause billions of dollars in crop damage every year.

Migratory hoverflies 'key' as many insects decline
Migratory hoverflies are 'key' to pollination and controlling crop pests amid the decline of many other insect species, new research shows.

Insect-deterring sorghum compounds may be eco-friendly pesticide
Compounds produced by sorghum plants to defend against insect feeding could be isolated, synthesized and used as a targeted, nontoxic insect deterrent, according to researchers who studied plant-insect interactions that included field, greenhouse and laboratory components.

Read More: Aphids News and Aphids Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.