The shortest way to a codling moth's heart is through his nose. It's also a sure-fire way to mess up his sex life.
Administering an olfactory overdose of a female sex scent may be one way to control the codling moth population - a pest that poses the single most threat to apples and pears worldwide, said Diane Alston, Utah State University Extension entomology specialist.Research shows that a male codling moth's sense of smell plays an important role in his reproductive success, she said.
Female codling moths, whose larvae account for the majority of wormy apples and pears in Utah, emit a certain scent, or pheromone, when they are ready to reproduce. Male codling moths, polygamous by nature, depend on this female sex lure in order to locate ready and willing mates, she said.
USU research in isolated apple orchards at Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah is capitalizing on this pheromone phenomenon to overwhelm and confuse amorous males, she said.
They are doing this by placing 120 pheromone tags per acre throughout the historic Capitol Reef apple and pear orchards.
These pheromone tags, heavily laden with the female moth's scent, are made to release a greater amount of the pheromone than a single female moth - more like a "super" female, she said.
Apparently, it is enough to drive any cold-blooded American male moth batty. She said such a large amount of female pheromone is dispensed in the orchard that it leaves the male moth completely confused.
So far, the pheromone scent tags appear to be doing the job. A check of the orchards in May showed no signs of worms - a hopeful indication considering the trees have not been sprayed, she said.
"This is not a control method through elimination," Alston said.