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Ants close-up photo

Listening to Ants {format} {format} 1:33 Jeff Rice

Ant sounds vibrate a scientists teeth.

Broadcast: Oct 16 2003 on NPR Day to DaySeries: Western Soundscape Subjects: Science, Environment

Analysis: Ant vibrations

October 16, 2003 from Day to Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: Now from the DAY TO DAY mad scientist file, here is the buzz.

(Soundbite of ants)

CHADWICK: That's the sounds of ants. You've never heard ants before, have you? That, dear listener, is because you don't use the proper methods. As recorded for the assignment desk by producer Jeff Rice, and demonstrated at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, by entomologist Hayward Spangler.

Dr. Spangler, over to you.

(Soundbite of ants)

Dr. HAYWARD SPANGLER (Entomologist): Well, what the ants produce, more than an airborne sound, is a vibration. And so your teeth are quite sensitive to vibration,so I would hold them between my teeth. Now when I'm doing harvester ants this way, harvester ants can sting rather potently. So I had little ways of trying to put some tape around my teeth, getting them dried off and--so that the gums would be a little protected and so forth. But I got zapped a few times, but not enough to discourage me.

(Soundbite of ants)

Dr. SPANGLER: You can just feel it. You know, it kind of sends chills down your back. It's exciting. Some people might not understand that, but it is to me.

(Soundbite of ants)

CHADWICK: Entomologist Hayward Spangler. And thanks to producer Jeff Rice, who used Hayward's contact microphone, basically a modified set of tweezers that go on his teeth, to pick up the ant vibrations and amplify them so they can be recorded.