Aphids And AC/DC

If you listened to AC/DC music for hours-on-end, would it bother you? 

Brandon Barton is an assistant professor of biological sciences at Mississippi State University. He and his students blasted AC/DC’s “Back in Black” album at soybean plants for two straight weeks to see if noise pollution had an impact on plant growth. It didn’t. They also tried it with aphids on the plants. No difference in the number of aphids or in plant biomass, either. Then, they decided to see how lady beetles would handle the noise while munching on the aphids.

"When there was no sound, the lady beetles did their job, they ate those aphids, controlled the pests. This was all on soybeans, so soybean plant biomass was great and really strong plants," he says. "But when we blasted them with that AC/DC, something was happening. Those aphids were increasing in abundance, so the lady beetles weren’t doing their job."

Hmmm. Was it the lyrics they didn’t like?

"We’ve joked and speculated maybe they’re rockin’ out too hard so they’re not feeding. Maybe they are disturbed and stressed by the pounding base or the high guitar sounds. We really don’t know what’s going on, but something’s causing these lady beetles to sort of freak out and then they don’t eat as many aphids when they’re being exposed to these sounds, and that includes jackhammers, and street noise, and airplanes," he says. "So, it seems to be generalizable that human sounds are doing something to these predators and making them less effective."

Barton says this experiment shows that when the environment is changed for one species, it directly affects another species.

Read more about the AC/DC experiment