pheromones, any of a variety of substances, secreted by many animal species, that alter the behavior of individuals of the same species. Sex attractant pheromones, secreted by a male or female to attract the opposite sex, are widespread among insects. The pheromones produced by males include a substance produced by cockroaches that attracts females and orients them in the correct mating positions and a substance elaborated by the desert locust that accelerates sexual maturation in adults of both sexes. Male-attracting pheromones have been discovered in the females of many species of beetles, bees, and moths. The polyphemus moth will not mate unless red oak leaves are present; it has been found that the leaves give off a volatile aldehyde that stimulates the female to release a male-attracting pheromone. Attempts are being made to use pheromones in insect control, e.g., as bait to attract males to field traps or, in very high concentrations, to disorient insects and prevent mating.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.