Sexually Confusing Male Moths
For the last four years, the Natural History Museum in London has suffered from a moth infestation. The insects like to munch on the clothes, furs, and feathers in the museum's prized collection. But the museum is outwitting the moths by tricking male moths into donning female moth "perfume," causing other males to follow them—to no reproductive avail. Sexually confusing these moths may be the key to keeping them from getting frisky and reproducing.
Developed by Exosect, the Pheromone Destruction System makes male moths attracted to other male moths. The system involves laying out small tablets full of the female moth pheromone to draw in male moths. Intrigued, the male moths fly over to check out the scent. The tablet is made from a wax powder that sticks to the insects, so when the male moth then flies away— probably more than a little confused—he smells like a female. That attracts other male moths to him. The result is a lot of sexually confused male moths that spend their time following each other around throughout their brief lives—and the even smaller timeframe in which they can mate.
"They only live for a couple of weeks and during that time there is only a small window in which they can reproduce,” Armando Mendex, the museum’s quarantine facility manager and project head, told The Telegraph. "If they spend this unknowingly attempting to attract and fertilize male moths, then it reduces the offspring we are up against."
This process doesn’t harm the moths in any way, but it does reduce the population. Since the museum introduced the system, the number of moths fluttering through the exhibition halls has been cut in half.