Can insects like fly hear?

Humans are intelligent species, in which our brains serve a vast number of functions in our body. We already know some of its uses since it is a part of our education ever since we were kids, and one of the most vital functions of our brain is the five basic senses.

The five basic senses of the human body consist of the senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. From the terms itself, it is not difficult to distinguish the particular uses of each sense. Furthermore, we put these into action in our everyday lives.

Let us take a more in-depth look into the primary senses, not just in humans, but also in animals – and mainly, in insects like the common housefly. Just knowing how the human senses work, we might come to think if the same thing goes for insects. Mainly, can insects like the common housefly hear? If yes, then how? What other senses does an insect have?

Tympanal Organ

An insect cannot hear the same way humans do. At the same time, not all insects have the capability to perceive sound, and this includes the common housefly. Although, since sound travels through the air in the form of vibration, insects have their way of interpreting those sound waves. These insects that can hear have an organ called – Tympanal Organ.

Insects like crickets, grasshoppers, and other close relatives, have a pair of tympanal organs, which is responsible for interpreting sound waves in the air. When the sound waves reached their tympanal organs, it would vibrate as an act of receiving the sound. The same principle applies to a tympani – the large drum used on an orchestra. When the band member struck the tympani head with a mallet, it would vibrate and produce sound. The same thing goes to the tympanal organ. From the name itself, when it catches the sound waves from the air, it would vibrate and interpret a sound. This process that insects use to hear is quite the same as how humans use their eardrums.

What senses does a fly have?

Have you ever noticed that when you are near garbage piles, mainly in places where there are decaying organic matters, mostly likely flies are also present? It is because flies have a keen sense of smell because of their antennae. Similar to other insects, flies use their sense of smell to detect food. One exceptional trait of flies is their ability to smell food at a long distance – up to seven kilometers. This feature of flies helps them to scavenge their food even at a distance.

Furthermore, flies have two types of eyes that they use to see. They have three simple eyes in between two compound eyes – those we can easily see on a fly. The compound eye is present in many insects, which is an eye holding thousands of more eyes called the ommatidia. Each ommatidium within the compound eye of a fly has its cornea, lens, and photoreceptor cells. These mini-eyes work individually at the same time, which explains why flies have extraordinary reflexes. From the perspective of a fly, everything would be in slow motion. However, the downside of having the compound eyes is they can’t focus on images, unlike the human eye. Then we have the simple eyes or the Ocelli, which acts as a photo-receptors. Simple eyes can’t process images, unlike the compound eyes, but they can detect light. Its appearance is unique since it does not look like an eye at first glance. Different insects vary in the number of simple eyes on their head, from one to three.

Another interesting fact about the body’s senses of a fly is their sense of taste. When we eat, we only use our tongue to taste our food. However, this is not the case when it comes to the common housefly. Flies have taste receptors inside their mouths, and at the same time, they also have this on their legs, wings, and ovipositor. There is no exact scientific explanation as to why they have a sense of taste in different parts of their body. One claim is that each part has an individual function when it comes to tasting their food.

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