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The Secret World of Insects

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November 8, 1999 -- NPR's Alex Chadwick takes us on an NPR/National Geographic Society Radio Expeditions into the secret world of insects. We join rex Cocroft, a leading bioacoustic scientist from Cornell and SUNY Binghamton, who is now moving to the University of Missouri, as he studies the sounds insects make.

Small bugs -- called tree-hoppers or vanduzea arquata -- make sounds you wouldn’t believe. And they make them in a way that we can't normally hear. They call by vibrating the stems and branches where they live. The vibrations travel down the stems and are picked up by other insects.

With special instruments called accelerometers, Dr. Cocroft picks up the signals and turns them into sound we can hear. Moreover, he can interpret some of what he sees and hears, and has come to believe that insect life is far more complex than we had thought. He compares these tiny creatures to little mammals.

Alex followed Dr. Cocroft for a couple of days in early September on a farm near Leesburg, Virginia, catching and recording a series of insects.

Listen to some of the fascinating things these insects have to say, and the unique way they say them, as NPR's Alex Chadwick takes us on another NPR/National Geographic Society Radio Expeditions.

Male (l) and Female (r) Tree Hoppers Male (l) and Female (r) Tree Hoppers
photo: Rex Cocroft

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