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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Almanac: Insect Thermometers

Air Date: Week of August 17, 2001

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This week, facts about insect thermometers. The behavior of bugs and other critters make for good weather forecasting.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Summer temperatures are rising and you want to know exactly how much but you don't have a thermometer handy. Don't worry. You can get a lot of information from some very little creatures. For instance, if you're seeing ants, it's at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. And if a honeybee stings you without provocation, chances are it's below 70 degrees. If that's not accurate enough, look for grasshoppers. If they're hopping it's at least 37 degrees, and if they're chirping it's above 62. Then there's the katydid, which gets the award for most indecisive insect when it comes to temperature reporting. When the mercury tops 80 degrees it's call sounds like "katy did it." But when the temperature drops, so apparently does the katydid's certainty. At 4 degree intervals, the call changes first to "katy didn't," then to "katy did," and from there to "she didn't," and "she did." Below 60 degrees the call is just, "Kate." The most accurate forecaster of all is the white tree cricket. It chirps exactly 4 times a minute for every degree the thermometer reads above 40 degrees. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

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