Living With ‘Hidden Odors’

Odors are chemicals, present in the air that stimulate olfactory receptors. Not all chemicals in the air produce an odor. Carbon dioxide has been described as a “colorless and odorless gas”, which is true for humans. However, many insects have olfactory receptors that are sensitive to carbon dioxide and us the odor for navigation in the environment.

Corn Rootworm Larva

Corn Rootworm Larva

Corn rootworm females lay their eggs in fields in the fall. In mid to late spring, after the corn has emerged, the eggs hatch and the hungry rootworm larvae must crawl through the soil to find a plant root. How do they locate corn roots? The growing cells of the root tip use sugar for energy and release carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide is released into the soil and can travel through pores in the soil until it reaches the surface. Rootworm larvae have olfactory receptors for carbon dioxide and use the odor as a cue that a plant root (food) is nearby. Unlike humans, who find carbon dioxide odorless, rootworms can detect the odor.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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