Watch the Hypnotic Dance of the Boogie-Woogie Aphid

Beech woolly aphids do the boogie-woogie (2020)
Beech woolly aphids do the boogie-woogie (2020) / Bug of the Week

From the goblin shark to the grey go-away-bird, many animal’s names perfectly capture their essence. But few monikers are as appropriate—or delightful—as that of the boogie-woogie aphid. These tiny critters are nicknamed for an unusual defense mechanism, and as you can see from the video above, their moves are infectious.

The boogie-woogie aphid—or the beech blight aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator), as it’s known officially—was the subject of a recent Reddit post by user u/your_name_here___. In the viral video, the fluffy, white insects perform a synchronized “dance” by lifting up their rear ends and shaking them from side to side. It may look like fun, but these insects maybe be gyrating for their lives.

According to Newsweek, the aphids only put on a show in response to perceived threats. When they sense an influx of carbon dioxide in the area, perhaps from an animal’s breath, they drop what they’re doing to wave their posteriors in the air. The choreography doesn’t cause harm, but if the bugs are lucky, the predator will be confused enough to back off. And by dancing together, the insects signal that they’re aware of the intruder’s presence and more defensive maneuvers may be coming. (But to hikers who stumble upon them in the woods within the eastern part of the United States, don’t worry: These bugs are all boogie and no bite.)

If a bird or other insectivore isn’t fooled by their display, beech blight aphids have one last line of defense. The white filaments on their bodies are actually strands of wax they produce throughout the summer. When a predator goes after this part, they bite into a clump of wax and give the insect a chance to get away unharmed. The furry, white part also doubles as a stylish disco outfit.

[h/t Newsweek]