AUSTIN (KXAN) – This may be shocking to some, but grasshoppers and other insects also do not want to be engulfed in flames.
KXAN reporters covering a Bastrop fire – 75% contained as of Wednesday night – observed hundreds of grasshoppers fleeing the blaze.
“[Insects] are going to need essentially the same things that we do – they need food, they need water, they need a place to live,” Texas A&M entomologist Wizzie Brown said. “When you have something like a wildfire, they’re going to try to escape that just like us.”
Brown said a bug’s temperature-withstanding capabilities may vary. Some may be able to stick it out a little longer while the temperatures rise, while others can’t handle too much heat. But whatever type of insect it is, when the flames get too close for comfort, they are getting out of there.
“If they’re adult insects capable of flying, then they can just fly,” Brown said. “But there’s probably also going to be insects and other arthropods in the area that don’t have wings, and the only way that they’re going to be able to get out of the area is by walking or jumping.”
Other bugs, like ants, might stay in the area but dig to find cooler temperatures underneath the surface for a better chance at survival.
If you live near a wildfire, your main concern will probably be flames encroaching upon your home. But Brown said if your house is near a wildfire, there is a good chance you may see more critters in and around your home as they attempt to find a safe haven.
Brown said that insects use chemical smells called pheromones to communicate with each other. In the case of the swarms of grasshoppers fleeing the danger of the wildfire, Brown said these bugs used alarm pheromones.
“They kind of spray out, and it’s like, ‘Oh, hey, there’s something going on here. We need to hightail it out of here.’ So once that happens, more and more start releasing the alarm pheromones, and it kind of snowballs from there,” Brown said.
And as soon as the temperatures cool down in a fire-stricken area, insects will move back in as long as enough resources are left, she said. If the vegetation is sparse, bugs that feed on plants will move on to somewhere else, as will the insects that snack on those bugs.