A sawfly larva raises its abdomen as it prepares to emit defensive chemicals. Jean-Luc Boevé

When some insects are scared or threatened by predators, they secrete smelly compounds.

Scientists converted the secretions into sounds, creating an eerie melody that’s unpleasant to humans.

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When sawfly larvae are threatened by predators like ants, they emit a cocktail of nasty smells to defend themselves. These secretions can irritate a potential foe’s antennae or nose.

Scientists wanting to study these smelly compounds – to understand which aspects of them deter predators, say, and why – face numerous challenges. Orchestrating meetups between sawflies, a wasp-like insect, and ants in the lab is expensive and logistically difficult. There’s also a very limited amount of the insects’ secretions.

So two researchers

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