Monday, January 10, 2011

Bugging the bugs: Scientists use tiny microphones to record the 'rasping' of stag beetle larvae


Bugged: Scientists are using tiny microphones to record stag beetle larvae

Scientists involved in a conservation project have been bugging the homes of stag beetle larvae.

Tiny microphones are being used to eavesdrop on the white grubs which live in buried rotting wood.

The larvae make rasping sounds known as 'stridulation' which experts believe are used as a form of communication.

Listening to the larvae is one new technique being tried out to get a better idea of stag beetle numbers.

The stag beetle, Lucanus cervus, can reach a length of several centimetres. Well known for the dramatic 'antlers' sported by males, it was once common but is now classified as 'nationally scarce' in the UK.

Stag beetles are still found in southern England but rare or extinct in the midlands and north.

Attempts to conserve the insect have been hampered by the lack of reliable population monitoring.

Scientists are also experimenting with ginger to lure flying beetles into aerial traps so they can be counted.

They discovered that adult stag beetles find ginger irresistible. It contains large amounts of alpha copaene, a chemical known to attract insects that live in dead and decaying wood.

Study: Microphones help track larvae without damaging their underground habitats while sensors which detect chemicals emitted by the grubs

The mini-microphones provide a means of detecting and tracking larvae without damaging their underground habitats.

They are being used alongside sensors which detect chemicals emitted by the grubs.
The team found that stag beetle larvae stridulation patterns are very different from those of other insect species, such as the rose chafer.

'Stridulation is likely to be a form of communication between larvae,' said study leader Dr Deborah Harvey, from Royal Holloway, University of London.

'It increases if larvae are handled or placed in solitary confinement.'

The new technique could be used to help conserve other rare species, she said.

'Acoustic detection of insects as a sampling method is very underused, but we believe it could have great potential in detecting larvae in the field,' said Dr Harvey.

The research, published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, was funded by the British Ecological Society, the Forestry Commission, the People's Trust for Endangered Species, and the Suffolk Naturalists' Society.

source: dailymail

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