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Silent Signals and Secret Codes

Did you know that trees talk? They do! So do some flowers and bugs and other animals.

This isn’t fantasy or science fiction. It’s truth. God’s design for this world is sometimes stranger and definitely more creative than fantasy or fiction.

We can’t hear trees “talk” because they use chemical codes we don’t understand. Other creatures use signals we can’t hear. Each creature understands and uses the signals it needs for life.

And the Creator “hears” and understands us all.

Corn Cries for Help

Imagine a field full of corn plants. Here come corn caterpillars to eat the plants. They could ruin the corn field very quickly. But corn is created to “cry” for help. Here’s how:

Corn plants make some kind of corn juice. When corn caterpillars eat a corn plant, their saliva mixes with that corn juice to make a gas. This gas drifts upward from the field.

Corn caterpillar wasps often lurk nearby. They need to lay their eggs on corn caterpillars. When they smell the gas they “know” the caterpillars are eating corn nearby. Immediately, the wasps fly into the field, find the caterpillars, and lay eggs. This kills most, but not all, of the caterpillars.

So the corn field is saved, some corn caterpillars are left, and some wasps will hatch. All is in balance.

This really happens. Only the creatures’ names have been changed.*

*The caterpillar’s real name is Spodoptera exigua Hubner, and the wasp is called Cotesia marginiventris. Neither of them, unfortunately, have common names, though the caterpillar is a type of armyworm.

Plants Control Birds

Gambel’s quail live in deserts. These birds eat leaves, flowers, and especially seeds of plants called legumes.

When there is not much rain, legumes produce few leaves, flowers, and seeds. But they produce lots of chemicals called phytoestrogens. When Gambel’s quail eat lots of phytoestrogens, they produce few eggs. So during a dry year with a low food supply and lots of phytoestrogens, quail produce few chicks.

During a wet year legumes grow vigorously but don’t produce many

phytoestrogens. So quail lay many eggs, and their young have plenty of food.

Tails Tell Tales

Match each animal’s body position

(numbers) with its message (letters).

  1. A dog meets you wagging its tail.
  2. A skunk stomps on the ground and
  3. raises its tail.
  4. A cat arches its back, holds its bushy
  5. tail high, and hisses.
  6. A deer bounds away from you with its tail held high.
  7. A dog lowers its back end and crawls up to you with its tail between its legs.

A.   “Danger!”

B.   “I’m going to spray!”    

C.   “I’m so happy to see you!”

D.   “I did something wrong.”

E.   “Don’t mess with me!”

Say It with Flowers

Desert lupine flowers need help from bees to spread their pollen and make seeds. Bees use nectar from the flowers to make honey. So they need each other.

When a bee visits a desert lupine for nectar, the flower’s

pollen sticks to it like dust. When the bee flies to the next flower for nectar, it spreads the pollen from the first flower onto the second flower. Both the bee and the flowers benefit. The bee gets nectar. The flowers’ pollen gets spread.

Desert lupine has very small flowers. A bee must visit hundreds to get enough nectar for honey. That’s a big job. So the flower “talks” to the bee with colors. Before a bee visits, the flower has a bright yellow spot on its blue petals. After a bee visits, the yellow spot turns red.

To a bee, the yellow spot says, “Here’s nectar!” But the red spot, which the bee sees as black, says, “Don’t bother with me. My nectar is gone.” So the bee stops only at the yellow spots. It gets nectar at every stop. And it spreads pollen only to flowers that still need it.

Lots of flowers “talk” like this. Vetch shows a splotch of black on pollinated flowers. White clover florets droop after a bee visits. Indian pipes bow their heads.

Moths Jam Bats’ Sonar

Some bats use sonar to find their food at night. This can be tricky because their food flies in the dark. But it works because a bat’s sonar is so finely tuned.

A bat “just looking around” makes clicks too high for us to hear, then it listens to echoes bouncing off nearby objects. For a better “look,” the bat clicks faster to hear more echoes. To “zero in” the bat clicks faster yet and can “see” exactly what is flying where.

Certain moths can tell when a bat is coming after them. They’ll do barrel rolls and loop-de-loops in flight to confuse the bat. If the bat stays on track, the moths fold their wings and fall to the ground, where the bat can’t find them. Some moths can even jam the bat’s sonar by sending out clicks of their own!

Your Turn

Some moths react to sounds that we can hear too.

Some night, turn on an outside light to attract moths. Then take a key ring full of keys outside. Hold the ring high and shake it. Watch the moths. Some may dive and roll; some may drop to the ground; some may not react at all.

It depends on what kind of moths are out there.

Points to Ponder

Read Luke 19:37-40. What did Jesus mean (see v. 40)? Does creation praise God? How?

Read Psalm 19:1-4. What do you think that means?

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