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Images: Sex The Attraction - Pheromone The Perfume

Sex the attraction - pheromone the perfume


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1. A moth moves in - fooled by the synthetic pheromone.

Insect invaders are causing damage to fruit crops,wind and river protection trees and forests. The painted apple moth has perhaps the highest profile of these. Others include the Australian guava moth and the gum leaf skeletoniser.

Pheromones and the age-old lure of sex could hold the key to successful eradication.


Dr El-Sayed with the micro sprayer.

Dr Ashraf El-Sayed recently joined the HortResearch team dealing with a wide range of these invaders. His specialty is identifying the signal chemicals that regulate insect behaviour, particularly the sex pheromones that make up the mating signals.

He has studied and worked in Sweden, Canada, England and Switzerland. His extensive international experience as chemical ecologist has already been put to good use. With ingenuity, and no No 8 wire in sight, he has improved the methods used in the wind tunnel where the synthetic lures produced by the team, are put to the test to tell if the right blend of compounds in the right quantities will fool a male moth into thinking it is on the track of a female.


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2. The micro sprayer in action.

Using a piezo electric disk like a crystal combined with square wave high frequency sound Dr El-Sayed sets up a microsprayer that pushs the synthetic pheromone through a micro tubing to a fine glass capillary vibrated by the piezo diskto send out a spray of the scent in much the same way a female moth would do. Using this method the chemical is vaporised into the air to attract the male moth.

This combination of technology and inventiveness allows precise control for delivery of the specific blend making the wind tunnel research more accurate and speeding up the results of the new pheromone blends.

The simple wind tunnel is an important part in the research to control or even eradicate infiltrating pests.

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