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A Moment of Science

Small Talk

Ants build houses and raise crops. They even like picnics. If only they could talk! Well, if you put one close to your ear, you might be surprised to hear a tiny voice. This Moment of Science looks at these small talkers.

Although ants usually communicate through smell, they also use sound to send distress calls and warnings about danger. Since they don’t have ears, scientists believe that they sense sound vibrations in their knees.

Ants produce sound in different ways. Some drum their jaws against nearby objects while others rub a body part called a gaster over the ridges on their midsection, like a stick over a picket fence.

If you pick up an ant, and put it to your ear, you might hear these faint noises. While not every ant produces sound, there are several species in the United States that do, including Red desert and Myrmica ants. But, beware! They may speak softly but they can carry a big bite.

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