Friday 9 December 2016

'Perfume' that turns moths 'transgender' used to curtail pest populations

Published 14/04/2016 | 00:11

Common clothes moths can cause significant damage to fabrics
Common clothes moths can cause significant damage to fabrics

Transgender moths are the latest weapon in the war to save our woollies.

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Scientists have found a way to force the fabric-munching pests out of the closet by making them sexually confused.

The trick is to lure male moths and cover them in a pheromone "perfume".

The scent signal delivers a message that says: "I am female".

When female moths get a whiff of the pheromone they lose interest in breeding.

As a result they fail to lay eggs which would under normal circumstances hatch out into hungry larvae.

In scientific trials, the "gender reassignment" treatment - called Moth Population Control Assist - disrupted the life cycle of clothes moths enough to reduce their populations by 90%.

David Cross, from Rentokil Pest Control, which conducted the research, said: "Moth Population Control Assist is designed to naturally and humanely curtail the presence of moth populations without the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

"By experimenting with their natural pheromones and limiting the reproduction cycle, we can effectively get moths out of the closet and prevent damage to clothes and furniture."

The treatment uses an artificially-created scent both to attract and then confuse the male moths.

New figures released by Rentokil have confirmed that the mild, wet winter has improved conditions for clothes moths and increased infestations in the UK.

Inquiries to the pest control specialists about moths from members of the public received between December 2015 and March 2016 increased by 20% compared with the same period the previous year.

Mr Cross added: " Common clothes moths can cause significant damage to fabrics (made from natural fibres) within properties if left untreated. Moth larvae usually feed on hair, feathers, wool and fur. They are often found in dark, hidden areas where clothes are stored, behind or below furniture.

"To avoid playing host to an unwanted collection of visitors on your precious belongings, it is important to remain vigilant to the signs of an infestation such as holes in fabrics and insects crawling on the floor near or around upholstered furniture."

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