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Understanding Insect Infrared Detection

By Philip S. Callahan, from the introduction of his book, Tuning In To Nature

Tuning in to Nature was written in 1975 as a direct result of an experience I had shortly after World War II ended, when I was still attached to the RAF Coastal Command in northern Ireland.

During July 1945, I took a Jeep from Belleek to Castle Archdale in Fermanagh County, northern Ireland. The RAF Coastal Command had its western Ireland headquarters on Lough Erne not far from our American Radio Range Station near Belleek.

When I picked up a technical report by the RAF on the XAF (10 cm radar) the researcher pointed out that most boat hulls were in sharp focus since 10 cm is a short wavelength in comparison to a boat. Diesel launches under way, however, were “blurred with indistinct edges over the stern.” It did not take long to deduce that the XAF radar was “seeing” the diesel exhaust — in short, the radar was smelling exhaust by electronics. This rather simple observation led to my irreversible belief that insect spines (sensilla) are indeed real antennae.

It was a few years later, after corresponding with Dr. Ernst Okress of American Standard Corp., that I knew for certain that insect antenna sensilla were dielectric, or plastic-like, antennae. That is the subject of Tuning in to Nature. In other words, insects utilize frequencies, not scents, to find their way around in nature.

When radar picks up a ship or aircraft, as we all know, the beam bounces off the aircraft and reflects back to a receiver that plots time and space. The transmitter and receiver are usually a few feet apart so that the return path is separated by a small angle from the “out” path.


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In phase conjugation, the opposite is true, as the return is by the same path as the emission path. In other words, it is like an ant trail; the photon “ants” come and go along the same pathway. A conjugate system adds up energy until it is many times stronger than a conventional beam. It is thus the radar gun that incinerates an aircraft.

I soon realized from these experiences that the components of a successful trap must be close together in order to obtain enough power to attract insects. That is exactly why small insects work so well, as do the small solid-state, man-made transistors — the components are close together and take advantage of phase conjugation.

Working for 30 years alone, with little help from other scientists, I have now developed a phase-conjugated insect trap (Patent No. 5,424,551 — Frequency Emitter for Control of Insects) that attracts by infrared wavelengths alone. A patent on the more efficient solid-state version, for use on stored grain insects, has recently been filed. It attracted, by infrared frequencies alone, 100% of released male Indian Meal Moths. Indian Meal Moths are said to destroy up to one-fifth of the world’s stored grain!

This solid-state trap is based on a knowledge of modern technology— radar. In particular on the concepts of phase conjugation. It is just as importantly based on the ancient knowledge of nature attained by the agriculturally-orientated farming pueblo Indians, in particular by the ancient Anasazi and the 19th-century Hopi Indians. Most of their astute knowledge of how nature works, as it was with myself, was based on observing the behavior of ants and ant communities in the desert. Lastly, it is based on the physics of the scent behavior of the ants in the hill.

None of these approaches are tolerated by modern entomologists. Computer guesswork and arrogance about how God designed things have been substituted for natural observations and for physical experimentation. Low physical energies and the connection of those electromagnetic energies to the atmosphere are rarely if ever considered.

Modern entomology fosters deadly poisons in place of observation of nature, and of experimentation utilizing the science of physics in the control of damaging insects.

The main ingredients of my work have been natural observation, respect for the Ancients, and prayer, all of which are unacceptable as methods of scientific research with our now sacred universities!

Early in my career, I studied pesticides, as did all entomologists. But the findings I released in this book, Tuning in to Nature, taught me that attempting to poison insects was at cross purposes to nature and would, in the end, prove futile.

Now, 25 years later, worldwide pesticide use is at an all-time high; crops lost to insect damage are also at an all-time high. As I witness our cancer epidemic, I take no joy in having been “right.”

A sick plant actually sends forth a beacon, carried in the infrared, attracting insects. It is then the insect’s role to dispose of this plant deemed unfit for life by nature. By learning how to “tune in to nature,” may you learn to better understand God’s beautiful design and come to work with nature by enhancing her energies, rather than attempting to overpower and rule over her.

About the Author

Philip S. Callahan was born on August 29, 1923, at Fort Benning, Georgia. He entered the U.S. Army Air Force, San Antonio, Texas, in 1942, and served two years in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. Hiking around the world after the war, he worked as a freelance photographer and writer.

On his return to the United States he matriculated at Fordham University New York, New York. He received his B.A. and M.S. degree from the University of Arkansas and his Ph.D. from Kansas State University. He joined the staff of the Entomology Department at Louisiana State University in March 1956 as Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1959. He joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Southern Grain Insects Research Laboratory, Tifton, Georgia, in July 1962 as Project Leader for insect biophysics. He was also Professor of Entomology on the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia.

In 1966, he received the Superior Service Award of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from the Secretary of Agriculture. He also received the annual award for distinguished research from the University of Georgia, Chapter of Sigma Xi and also the Sears Roebuck Foundation Award for contributions to agriculture. In 1969, he transferred to the USDA Insect Attractant and Behavior Laboratory at Gainesville, Florida. He authored over 106 academic papers and 12 scientific books throughout his career. Dr. Callahan passed away in 2017.

Tuning In To Nature book
Tuning in to Nature by Philip S. Callahan


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