Bugs can taste, see, smell, hear and touch, but sense things differently and
often better than we do. We rely heavily on our sight and hearing to understand
the world around us. Bugs depend more on their smell and taste senses.
Antennae are sometimes called ‘feelers’, but they should really be called
‘smellers’. Insect antennae are the equivalent of our noses and are covered in
holes or pores called chemoreceptors. Chemoreceptors are hollow structures
through which odours or liquid chemicals can enter. Many insects are especially
able to detect smells given off by sugary food, flowers, fruits and animal
dung, as these are important food sources.
Chemoreceptors are also used for tasting. They are mainly found on the
mouthparts or on the feet. Bees and wasps can taste with their antennae. Female
crickets can taste with their ovipositortheir egg-laying
organwhich helps them to decide where to lay their eggs. Most insects can
taste the four taste sensations that we can: sour, sweet, bitter and salty.
Touch receptors, called mechanoreceptors, are usually tiny hairs with a nerve
at the base. Bugs can sense the movement of the hair when it touches something.
These sensory hairs also pick up air movements, which is why it is so difficult
to catch flies. Flies can sense the air moving towards them and quickly move
out of the way.
Most bugs can sense vibrations, but only some have functional ears. Crickets,
grasshoppers, cicadas and some moths have a large membrane called a tympanum
that works like our eardrum. Crickets and katydids have tympanums on their
forelegs, while grasshoppers have them on either side of their abdomens. Some
moths have tympanums on their mouthparts or wings for detecting the clicks of
Bugs mainly use their sight to detect movement. They can have two types of
eyes: compound or simple. Adult insects have two compound eyes and may have up
to three simple eyes on the tops of their heads. Spiders have six or eight
simple eyes. Compound eyes consist of many six-sided lenses that fit
together like the cells of a honeycomb. Simple eyes, or ocelli, consist of a
single lens and are used to distinguish between light and dark, and to detect