by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I’m cleaning up my study and came across last summer’s issue of Acoustics Today, which had a fascinating article by Maggie Raboin, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, with the somewhat dry title “Inaudible Noise Pollution of the Invertebrate World.” I think a catchier title, “Noise Bugs Bugs,” might have attracted more attention. After all, for us humans, a New York Times crossword puzzle answer last year was “A noise annoys.”

Why does noise bug bugs? Most do not have identifiable ears, but that doesn’t mean they can’t perceive vibrations in the air, on rocks or dirt, or on branches and leaves. Raboin discusses the wide variety of ways insects use sound or vibrations to find food, to avoid being eaten, to find mates, to detect hosts on which to lay their eggs.

Unfortunately, anthropogenic noise–that made by humans–doesn’t just annoy us, but makes life difficult for insects, too. Raboin points out that anthropogenic noise may be responsible in part for a worldwide decline in insect populations.

Why does that matter? Because insects constitute a vital part of the food chain and are an especially important protein source for birds–if insect populations decline, so do bird populations.

I have previously written that a quiet world will be a better and healthier world for all, but I didn’t realize I was speaking about insects, too.