'Pheromones' in air unite male and female moths

Researchers have recently studied male moths process of detecting their female partners miles away with the help of 'pheromones' in the air.

ANI| Updated: Oct 22, 2014, 14:33 PM IST

Washington: Researchers have recently studied male moths process of detecting their female partners miles away with the help of 'pheromones' in the air.

The study has found that moths used pheromones to locate their mates. Yet when these chemical odors are widely dispersed in a windy, turbulent atmosphere, the insects still managed to fly in the right direction, so-called "cone of detection" over hundreds of meters with only random puffs of their mates' pheromones spaced tens of seconds apart to guide them.

Antonio Celani of ICTP in Italy and Emmanuel Villermaux of Marseille University in France said that unlike dogs and other flies, insects faced the most difficult problem as they reled on olfaction and detecting of the volatile signals dispersed in the wind. When the atmosphere is turbulent, the signal could become sporadic and simply disappear for long periods of time.

The physicists have solved this problem by first determining the intensity and duration of pheromone signals, then validating the results with numerical simulations with controlled lab experiments and field data.

The researchers had also said that by controlling the behaviors of insects exposed to pheromones, they could also limit the ability of invasive or disease-carrying pests to mate.

It could also help engineers improve the design of sniffers, olfactory robots guided by chemical scents to search for bombs, toxic chemicals and flammable leaks.

The study was published in the journal Physical Review.