Sexually confusing moths has emerged as a way to force the pests out of the wardrobe.

In a new pest control treatment, experts lured male moths and covered them in a “perfume” of artificial pheromones, which sends the message that they are female. The female moths, in turn, lose interest in copulation once they get a whiff of the scent.

This effectively renders the female ones unable to lay eggs, preventing another batch of hungry larvae that would feed on fabrics and other items in the closet.

“[This allows us to] naturally and humanely curtail moth populations without the use of potentially harmful chemicals,” says David Cross, the study researcher from Rentokil pest control, of the method dubbed Moth Population Control Assist.

The treatment, which employs a synthetic scent attracting and then confusing the male moths, targeted the moths’ reproduction cycle and disrupted their life cycle enough to wipe out their population by 90 percent in all the trials conducted.

According to Rentokil, mild and wet winters in the United Kingdom serve as a better breeding ground for clothes moths, which could also damage furniture. Inquiries to their pest control services from December to March, for instance, rose 20 percent compared to the same period last year.

Once left untreated, these moths can significantly damage naturally made fabrics. Their larvae typically munch on feathers, hair, wool, and fur, and often reside in areas for clothes storage and around furniture.

Some signs of a moth infestation include fabric holes as well as crawlers near or surrounding upholstered furniture, advises Cross.

Sex pheromones play an increasingly crucial role in pest control. Researchers from Simon Fraser University in Canada, for instance, used pheromones from male brown rats to lure and trap female rats.

The three-pronged rat control program involves the rodents’ own communication system — their sound signals, pheromones, and some food bait — to trigger the rats’ capture. Infestation could spread allergens and disease, seriously damage agricultural crop yields, and threaten endangered seabirds and other species.

Photo: David Short | Flickr

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