Insect love potion: the anti-anti-aphrodisiac

11 September 2017

Interview with

Colin Brent, Arid Land Agricultural Research Center, Maricopa

Some insect species are “polyandrous” - that means they mate more than once and with multiple males. But if a female has already recently mated it’s in no one’s interest for her to mate again too soon, because sperm from different males would end up competing. So western tarnished plant bug males - and these are pests that devour strawberries and cotton crops - also transfer to the females when they mate anti-aphrodisiac chemicals. One is myristyl acetate and another is geranyl geranyl acetate. These temporarily warn other males to steer clear. But now Colin Brent has found that the females use an anti- anti-aphrodisiac to neutralise the effect so that they don’t end up off-limits for too long. Chris Smith hears how it works...

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