OF the five ordinary senses recognised in ourselves and most higher animals, insects have, beyond all doubt, the sense of sight, and there can be as little question that they possess the senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Yet, save perhaps that of touch, none of these senses, as possessed by insects, can be strictly compared with our own, while there is the best of evidence that insects possess other senses which we do not, and that they have sense organs with which we have none to compare. He who tries to comprehend the mechanism of our own senses—the manner in which the subtler sensations are conveyed to the brain—will realise how little we know thereof after all that has been written. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that authors should differ as to the nature of many of the sense organs of insects, or that there should be little or no absolute knowledge of the manner in which the senses act upon them. The solution of psychical problems may never, indeed, be obtained, so infinitely minute are the ultimate atoms of matter; and those who have given most attention to the subject must echo the sentiment of Lubbock, that the principal impression which the more recent works on the intelligence and senses of animals leave on the mind is that we know very little, indeed, on the subject. We can but empirically observe and experiment and draw conclusions from well attested results.
From an address on "Social Insects," delivered by Prof. C. V. Riley, as President of the Biological Society of Washington, (Reprinted (slightly condensed) from Insect Life, vol. vii. No. 1.)
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Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London (2009)