Do you know why caterpillars hate loud noises?

Do you know why caterpillars hate loud noises?

A man who thought he was just being silly by shouting at the caterpillars on his front steps has inadvertently revealed a deep truth about the insects' defence mechanisms.

caterpillars hate screams
Youtube screenshot

Insects are generally regarded as an annoyance in the home. They cause chaos and they are not easy to get rid of. 
In fact, if you are dealing with a serious insect problem, you may find yourself so desperate to get rid of the pests that you will try even the most unconventional methods. 

For example, you might try screaming at some caterpillars in efforts to shoo them away from your front stoep.

John Farley from Ontario, Canada found a large group of tent caterpillars on the steps outside his home and, in a last-ditch attempt to get some kind of reaction out of them, he screamed at them. What happened next was as unexpected as it was amusing to John and his daughter, who was also screaming at the insects. The caterpillars writhe and shake their heads, only calming down when the sound is gone. 

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Despite this reaction to noise, the caterpillars do not move away from the spot. In that regard, John's screaming didn't work. 

But what John's screaming did do is offer an opportunity for an investigation into why caterpillars react to the noise the way they do. Who knew that they even have ears?

It turns out caterpillars writhe their bodies and shake their heads when they hear loud sounds because they are warding off potential attacks from parasite flies. The sound of John's scream is at a similar frequency to that of the parasite flies, triggering the reaction in the caterpillars.

Caterpillars shaking their heads looks strange, but it could potentially save their lives. 

So, John and his daughter might have had a little fun shouting at the caterpillars, but it might be best not to cause them any unnecessary distress.

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