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Interview 4:05 - 1:48:18 Play 4:05 - More
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Rex Cocroft  

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Treehoppers  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
Sep 1999

    Geography
  • United States
    Virginia
    Loudoun County
    Locality
  • Leesburg
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 39.10917   -77.55778
    Habitats
  • Rural
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
    Microphones
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo

NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Show: Bug Communication
Log of DAT #: 4
Date: 1999

ng= not good
ok= okay
g = good
vg = very good

Absolute Time

0.00.00 -0.00.32 recorded silence

0.00.32 -0.00.53 preparing tape.

0.00.53 -0.01.29 messing with mic

0.01.29 -0.03.24 still preparing mic, changing levels, taping the mic, etc.

0.03.24 -0.04.04 AC: Okay, so what we're doing here is waiting for an airplane mic bumping, set-up ...

0.04.04 -0.05.24 [walking in field] AC: So, we're going to go off and walk across this field and using these butterfly nets, we're going to catch some things to put on a goldenrod and listen to that?

RC: Sure, We've made the claim that there are lots of insects out there singing on these plants, so we're going to try to substantiate that if we can by going out and catching things and putting them on a plant, and seeing what we get.

AC: all right. How hard is it to catch insects out here?

RC: Not hard -you'll sweep your net a few times and you'll have it full of insects, and we can pull out a few that are likely songsters like leafhoppers or treehoppers or um

AC: You've given me here something that I've always imagined using, a genuine butterfly net, the kind you see in cartoons, I mean it's this great long stocking kind of thing on the end of a pole.

RC: Well, it's a good ticket if you have to be trespassing on somebody's property because you either look slightly crazy or slightly sinister, but in either case pretty harmless to other people, so they tend to be suspicious of somebody wandering around, but once they see you with an insect net, they know you're just kind of a harmless nut. Which is generally true.

0.05.24 -0.06.16 AC: So now just in front of us there's this little meadow here bordered with trees all around it and in the middle it's just all golden, I guess that is goldenrod,

RC: Yeah, that is goldenrod, and that supports a whole community of insects...

AC: Queen Anne's Lace out there too and some other things growing up in the middle.

RC: Okay, so there's a place here where I saw a few treehoppers the other day so let's stop and look on these goldenrod stems,

AC: Right there? Right there. No that's not anything, is it. [mic noise]

0.06.16 -0.06.39 clap slate

0.06.39 -0.08.00 RC: All right, well I don't see any males in this little patch, so maybe what we can do now is just do a little sweeping of the vegetation [sound of sweeping through tall plants] Alex and Rex chat as they do that, dog pants.

0.08.00 -0.10.01 RC: [looking through his net] Spiders ... okay, here's a little leafhopper in here, might be a good [something] see, This well, let me see if I can put it in a little vial, and ... yeah.. Alex and Rex chat some more about the insects that they have in their nets.

0.10.01 -0.10.35 AC: So we've got the female, and a male.

RC: Different kinds of bugs -

AC: different kinds, wasn't that first one a treehopper, but it was a different treehopper. ..

RC: Yeah, and this is a leafhopper and leafhoppers are psychadilids, they're related, they're pretty closely related, might be even each other's closest relatives, but there're about 30,000 or so species of leafhoppers, most of which have never been listened to,

0.10.35 -0.10.56 Alex and Rex talk about a ladybug (middle ground, chatty)

0.10.56 -0.11.25 AC: But you've never listened to a lady bug?

RC: I've never listened to a lady bug -

AC: eeh, she just flew away anyway.

RC: There are some beetles that are known to have, to either astrigulate, and make sounds, or at least they have the apparatus they can make the sounds with, but I've never listened to them very much, so ...

0.11.25 -0.13.16
more sounds and chat while sweeping for insects. Airplane. Transferring insects to bags and vials.

0.13.16 -0.16.11 [airplane] RC: Oh yeah, this is great. I've got a whole little collection of leafhoppers. [moving in grass] Alex and Rex talk about putting the leafhoppers in bags.

0.16.11 -0.17.49
Alex and Rex continue looking for leafhoppers. Tall grass, some mic bumping, Airplanes galore!

0.17.49 CLAP SLATE

0.17.55 CLAP (snap) SLATE

0.17.55 -0.20.15 More sweeping around for bugs, -RC: Course, convincing these that they want to sit on the plant we have arranged for them is

AC: Another question all together

RC: so when we let them go we'll probably see them for a glorious second or two, then they'll all be gone. [Dog panting] Airplane.

0.20.15 -0.22.07
moving around in tall grass, crickets, dog panting at times, RC and AC looking for more bugs.

0.22.07 -0.23.00 [continue above ambi] AC: Is this how you collect in the field?

RC: Actually I almost never use a net. I usually just kind of catch things by hand, specially... Chatting like this while they put hoppers into plastic bags.

0.23.00 -0.25.31 looking for more treehoppers -shuffling through grass, putting in plastic bags.

0.25.43 -0.25.45 TWO CLAP SLATES

0.25.45 -0.26.30 Moving around in the grass, a lot ofmic bumping,

0.26.30 -0.28.24 AC and RC put more bugs in plastic bags. Harley pants a lot. Plane flies over.

0.28.24-0.30.27 Lots of crashing around through the grass, dog panting, chatting.

0.30.27 -0.31.44 fixing up mic, walking through grass,

0.31.44 -0.31.56 Really great bird.

0.31.56 -0.32.55 Good ambi of sweeping movements in the grasses.

0.32.55 -0.34.37
Rex and Alex talk about what they got in their butterfly nets, Alex wrestles with a leafhopper to keep it in bag. [plane flies over]

0.34.37 -0.35.22
Out in the field with Rex and Alex, still looking at the hoppers in the bag RC: just a seed but it looked like a hopper...

0.35.22 -0.36.35
RC: Lets take a few more sweeps for good measure, and then go back and see what we can get.

AC: Allright. This is the expedition part of what we're doing today, we're going out in this meadow which is full of these insects, full of all kinds of life, including these dogs that keep wandering by and panting, and here we are walking across meadows with these great butterfly nets, out to capture what we can, to bring back and then we're going to listen and see what we've got. So off we go! [walking through tall grasses, dog]

0.36.53 -0.37.31 RC: well so far so good, we've found a meadow we're finding some insects,

AC: we've got a big wasp here we're hoping will leave, goodbye! He left.
[mic bumping]

AC: Okay, I bagged a bunch of stuff here, but I don't know what it is. It's mostly sterns of things, there's a red ant, here's something here

RC: That's a spider

0.37.31 -0.38.08 Alex tells cow story ("Those would be horses") Plane passes over.

0.38.08 -0.38.31 Walking through tall grasses

0.38.31 -0.40.54 RC: Oh, okay, we got a frog hopper this time, another family of hoppers, pretty closely related to treehoppers. RC and AC chat some more about putting the insects in the bag.
Alex trying to put hopper in bag.

0.40.54 -0.41.23 Walking through tall grasses again.

0.41.23-0.42.46
CJ: When you look in this bag and you see a little hopper, can you describe it for an audience that can only listen -what do they look like? RC: Well, most of these are leafhoppers so they're basically cigar-shaped and they're about 2 or 3 millimeters long, so less than a quarter-of-an-inch long. Many of them are brow, and if you turn them over some of them have beautiful colors - here's one that's a metallic greenish gold with dark striped. Here's one that's lime-green with red stripes, others that are simply brown, another that has a white stripe across its face if you look at it from below, and here's a larger plant hopper, which looks from the side as if you took a circular leaf and bent it over around the bid-vein so that you had a semi-circle with the wings on either side, looking like the parts of the folded leaf. And then there's one treehopper in here that looks a bit like a dark brown thorn about a quarter-of-an-inch long.

0.42.46 -0.43.53 CJ: And if you look at it underneath a microscope, what would it look like?

RC: Oh, it's amazing looking at insects under a microscope is a really neat thing to do because they're just masterpieces, so you'd see, you'd see their legs with all the joints, and you'd be able to see their faces, which from here if you look at them, their eyes [something] don't stand out, you just see a little bug. But if you look at it under a microscope, you'd see a face appear, let's say with green eyes on either side of its head, and you'd be able to see from the underside, a tube coming out below their head that's normally kind of nestled in a little groove right in between the bases of their legs, and that's their mouth parts, that are in a sheath normally. And you'd see the beautiful colors much more strongly under a microscope in the light.

0.43.53 -0.44.33
CJ: are they good bugs? RC: Well, that depends. Some of these, most of them have no importance for people economically one way or the other. Most treehoppers for example are not economically important. Some leafhoppers are pests of, there are leafhopper pests of rice and of oats, a [potatoes?]. some that cause a fair amount of damage. So from some standpoints they're bad bugs. From my standpoint they have interesting behavior and communication so they're great.

0.44.33 -0.45.27
Alex and Rex find more bugs. Good ambi, RC talking about lace bugs and others in the field, "Then let's go up, see what we can get" great birds and crickets

0.45.27-0.46.12 AC and RC continue chatting, walking a bit, dog in and out.

0.46.12-0.46.46
RC: Oh I just found -our friends the froghopper. Alex, you've done it again, it's on your glasses. [chuckling]
AC: That's amazing ...

RC: Most of the interesting insects we've found on this trip have ended up ones I've been picking off your clothing! [laughter]

0.46.46 -0.47.38
waiting for airplane. CJ talks about trying to create a personality for treehoppers, that they are such good mothers that it makes her like them a lot.

0.47.38 -0.48.56 AC: Anthropomorphism is the curse of science. RC: You know, you don't hear that so much any more, except in biology textbooks _ freshman biology textbooks. But, otherwise it's almost creeping in and becoming a bit more fashionable. Well, the animal cognition, the study of what animals might know or animal motivation, sort of emotions. You can't study it directly but there are a lot of indirect ways of trying to get some idea about it, So that really was kind of the mantra of the behaviorists that just believed that animals were these complete robots and a stimulus would just impinge upon them from the environment and just like a machine that would cause this to happen, this to happen, this to happen, then it's leg would move and turn it towards the direction of that stimulus. So it was really, that's where the terms, taxis and kinesis and these other kind of very mechanical terms came from. And you wonder, well okay, why do they have brains?

0.48.56 -0.50.30 CJ: Is there any kind of measurement you can give to

AC: How many in an acre here? How many voices do you think are in an acre here, that we can't hear?

RC: Well, that would take a while to kind of build up an answer to that I mean, cause I'd start by saying okay well, how many representatives of different groups of insects are here, so at anyone time lets say, we'll start with treehoppers there're about 60 species of treehoppers in this area but only a few species are active this time of year. And then a leafhoppers, there're going to be hundreds of species here, fewer of them active, other groups that we may not know about, so I really, I couldn't just give you a quick flash like that, I'd have to work group by group and build up a picture that probably I would say if we just circumscribed an area of maybe 50 feet all around us that encompasses all this goldenrod, there are about 4 or 5 species of insects that we can hear, and probably at least 40 or 50 that we aren't hearing because they're singing only through the plants..... Let's take these back.

0.50.30 -0.50.59 Camera stuff

0.50.59 -0.52.58
Walking (with dog) through tall grass. RC finds treehopper and large spider. They put them in a bag. AC calls dog.

0.52.58 -0.53.25
Ned talks about Ambi of the meadow. Airplane comes in.

0.53.25 -0.54.20 Ned waiting for airplane to go away. Ambi of meadow. Airplane comes in again.

0.54.20 -0.56.15 Airplane going away
Ambi of meadow. Great birds, crickets. Once in a while a bug buzzes the mic (Which Andrea loves!) Another plane.

0.56.15 -0.57.48 AC calling dog. RC and CJ chat about doing something again ...

0.57.48 -1.00.34
RC: No, actually amazed how well things've worked, I've usually found that trying to make recordings is just about impossible if there's anybody else with me, but we've been working, it's been pretty amazing people really work together CJ and RC and
AC chat about the plan of action to try to hear the bugs they've heard in the field. [pretty bad airplane]

1.00.34 -1.01.24
AC and RC hooking up accelerometer to plants for new bugs, another plane goes by.

1.01.24 -1.02.33 feedback, then we can hear the sounds of the other (new) insects. RC: So now I will just try little by little, one by one, to introduce these insects onto this plant, we'll probably lose a few, but (interesting branch sounds!) Lets see. Lets put a little more ...

1.02.33 -1.03.08 Sound of the bugs, dogs panting, (calling off dogs).

1.03.08 -1.04.17 Bump! From the amplified bug sounds, RC: [laughing] That's what we're mostly going to get,

AC: That was a jump, that was a big bump as jump as the hopper hops,

RC: That's probably what's going to happen with that but I'm a little more optimistic about some of these. [bug sounds] That I think they may do that for a while, but eventually they'll settle down.

AC: So it's two,

RC: It's two that have just kind of hopped off into oblivion,

AC: But they're in the bag anyway, they're in the bag. Which means they might find
their way back to the stern,

RC: yeah. And we can something like a long grass stern ... This is the part that calls for the superhuman patience, because of exactly this -you bring them into the lab, that's what they do, they jump they jump they jump they jump, then eventually they've had enough and they settle down.

1.04.17 -1.05.07
RC: You probably didn't want to hear that at this point in the day!

AC: Well, I've had about enough right now, Rex!

RC: Well, most of those recordings you know, [big bug noises] that're on that tape, you know the greatest hits tape I gave you, there's a lot of

AC: So we've actually had a pretty easy time today.

RC: Well, you've had a creampuff of a time. This is going to be really noisy for a minute [big bug noises] The other thing we can do is reposition things so that they're going to tend to go up and their going to tend to go toward the light, so we can move [HUGE amplified noises] this up. If we need to.

1.05.07 -1.05.49
RC: Alright, let me just put some more on. Even if we just get one sound ... [amplified bug sounds]

1.05.49 -1.06.57
RC: ... [whispering] that leafhopper jumped and landed on the plant, jumped again -oh okay, it's still there. AMBI, moving bag, crickets, birds.

1.06.57 -1.08.38 AC: We've now got 4 insects in there. RC: two on the plant

AC: two on the plants, no one is actually making any noise.

RC: No. Not as far as I can tell. [plane, plastic bag]

RC: which, given what they've just gone through, is not entirely surprising.

AC and RC talk about what they could do to get it to work. Ambi

1.08.38 -1.10.02
Good Ambi, some bag crunching, some very soft sounds of moving bugs on plant. Some louder ones, AC: Most of the lab recordings that you've gotten you get this way, by persuading individual insects to get on to stems [sounds] and make vibrations?

RC: Um,, yeah. Yup.

1.10.02 -1.10.22 Car drives up, airplane

1.10.22 -1.11.20 More light noises from the bugs, AC and RC watching and listening.

1.11.20 -1.13.30 AC: Very good Rex. You've just very very carefully taken this leafhopper I think? From this plastic sack and introduced it into this one that's holding our stem, and it's sitting right there on a leaf. It's not making any noise, nothing that we can hear

RC: Yeah, it's probably not. Urn, we got on the plant right now, one -two leafhoppers, I don't know if those are male or females, we got left -We lost quite a few things in translation, there're lots that're kind of squished, or... Those two look a bit too calm for us.
AC: Is calm a euphemism for dead?
RC: urn hm [affirmative]
AC: This guy's not dead.
RC: He doesn't look very chipper though.
AC: That guy's dead.
RC: So we've still got on the stem
AC: there's that little ..
RC: treehopper, froghopper. ..
RC: A handsome beast, you have to admit. That's it. I think we lost about two-thirds of our bugs here,

1.13.30 -1.19.00
Sounds of bugs moving on branch. One bug knocking ... Alex and Rex trying to figure out which bug is making the noise. Several planes fly over.

1.19.00 -1.21.07
Louder sound of bugs on branch. Still not loud enough though. Rex and Alex still trying to figure out which bug is moving.

1.21.07 -1.22.18 Rex and Alex talking about bus making noise on branch.

1.22.18 -1.23.46
RC: I'd like to try, maybe transferring this bug to another stem see if we get that, taking the bug off. I mean, this is such a weird signal, I mean, there's a chance that that's the bug but I'm skeptical because it's not what I expect

AC: It doesn't sound like a bug sound

RC: If it is well, that's cool. It's something really different, but

AC: You want to try taking it off with this stem?

RC: No, what I'm thinking is, .. I don't think we're getting much from others, the only other candidate that hasn't moved much is either that little tiny green one that I even have a hard time seeing, or this one, that hasn't moved much either. So that one and that one are possibilities. So what I'm thinking is maybe setting up another stem and transferring

AC: Those three?

RC: yeah, maybe one by one or at least that one on to this new stem. Listen to the stem beforehand, so that there's nothing there, and then transfer it, just to maybe convince myself that this is actually coming from that insect. If it is, that's really cool, but I'm skeptical.

1.23.46 -1.26.40 RC: All right. I think we can move the others ... AC and RC transfer the bugs to new stem. Rex goes to cut new stem, loud plane goes
over.

1.26.40 -1.27.27 RC: [trying to figure out if bug cleaning itself makes the sounds we hear amplified] If that's the bug, it's cool! I just still want to convince myself that it is.

AC: Okay, well what do we do to find out? We've found a new bug.
Chatting

RC: Yeah. So that's what we want to find out. So to find out we want to, if we lose this bug we'll never know. All right, where was that other, there was another jar that was sort of nobody... Chatting

1.27.27 -1.29.10 RC: Okay -it's moving! it's moving! Let's turn it back up.

AC and RC try to figure out if it's the little bug. Chatting. Airplane comes in.

1.29.1 0 -1.30.30 RC: All right, this would be the offending accelerometer, so let's just do this test of turning it on, and listening and seeing, do we hear the sound now. If we do, our search is over (feedback!)

AC: It's not there

RC: Okay, that's good. Let's set up a little piece of stem... AC and RC continue with verifying little bug and its noise.

1.30.30 -1.33.04 AC: Okay. So we're getting another plastic bag up here with a fresh piece of stem, and I'm holding off the other stem which still has the accelerometers attached to it, ... One bag, another bag, We're re-hanging a fresh bag ..

RC: I'm going to attach this accelerometer to this new stem, yes that little insect is still there, we'll see if we can, AC and RC still working it out. They listen to the branches without bugs.

1.33.04 -1.34.50 RC and AC move the insect to a new stem, in new bag.

1.34.50 -1.37.08 Bug gets onto stem, RC very excited to see this [airplane] Bug leaves the stem again. Waiting for the bug to get back onto the stem. Bug goes back, walks around. Wait for it to settle down. They wait for any kind of noise out of this insect.

1.37.08 -1.40.38 RC goes to check the other accelerometer to check if it was making the noise, or if some other insect in the bag was making the noise. Neither. AC and RC try to figure out where the sound was coming from. RC moves the bug from leaf to stem part of the branch in the bag. A lot of good Ambi at end.

1.40.38 -1.42.24
RC: Well I think we can say we recorded a sound from one of those insects, whether it was communicative or not..

AC: Something new that you haven't heard before

RC: sure, yeah

AC: And you're pretty sure it's from an insect?

RC: yeah. Now that we've. We've listened to the plant itself, even this other stem, and there's nothing inside the plant that's making that sound, and we've taken our transducers off, and there's nothing inherent in the transducers making that sound, and the third candidate is one of those insects that was on there, and it was probably the small one which was extremely close to the one accelerometer, and if it would call again, it would confirm it.

AC: You know, you've got candidate B out there, candidate B isn't on that stem, he's in that little vial.

RC: Good point. True.

AC: Want to put him in there? RC: Not at the same time., then we'd have the same problem ... Continue trying to figure it out.

1.42.24 -1.44.15 AC: Rex? I feel much differently about insects, I really do. I mean I can't have the ... I don't kill anything any more, I mean really -If I catch anything the house I just try to get it outside, but, but I really feel much more attached to insects than I ever have before.

RC: Do you think that's because you might have a sense of what you might be destroying if you were to kill one?

AC: Yeah! And because you're not destroying something that's so, that's so other-worldly, it's more attached to my world than I had thought. I mean the idea that these things have family relations, which they do, is something that -

RC: Mind you, not all insects do, but many of them communicate with each other. [foreground:] I used to be able to swat flies, until I took a course in insect morphology and I studied all the little pieces of the skeleton to which muscles attached involved in flight and in controlling the angle of the wings and after that I'd look at a fly and - God that's amazing! And you know, it was kind of hard to understand how it all worked. Once you figured it out, you know it would be like

AC: destroying the Mona Lisa

RC: yeah![laughter] Right, well I'm going to go cut another plant.

1.44.15 -1.46.29 Big clanking sound -ladder? Dog panting, bumping. Woman calling dog. Pretty good ambi of woods at night.

1.46.29-1.46.39 recorded silence

1.46.39 -1.46.51 Just a bit of ambi

1.46.51 -1.47.26 Ambi of meadow, with machinery in background. (pretty Light).

1.46.26 -1.48.20 ambi, meadow, very light machinery far away,

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