6.10.3. Humidity

The high surface area : volume ratio of insects means that loss of body water is a serious hazard in a terrestrial environment, especially a dry one. Low moisture content of the air can affect the physiology and thus the development, longevity, and oviposition of many insects. Air holds more water vapor at high than at low temperatures.

The relative humidity (RH) at a particular temperature is the ratio of actual water vapor present to that necessary for saturation of the air at that temperature. At low relative humidities, development may be retarded, for example in many pests of stored products; but at high relative humidities or in saturated air (100% RH), insects or their eggs may drown or be infected more readily by pathogens. The fact that stadia may be greatly lengthened by unfavorable humidity has serious implications for estimates of development times, whether calendar or physiological time is used. The complicating effects of low, and sometimes even high, air moisture levels should be taken into account when gathering such data.



  Mutagens and toxins

Chapter 6