There’s scientific warfare happening—and it’s turning straight moths gay.
The sexuality switcheroo happened after the Natural History Museum set out to eradicate a long-standing issue with cloth-eating insects.
The moths were destroying fabrics as well as the hair and fur of dead animals.
“The moths would lay their eggs in the specimens and the larvae feed in the root of the hair and they will go deep in the skin,” Armando Mendex, the museum’s quarantine facility manager, told The London Times. “Recently, we found that they like snakeskins. It contains a lot of keratin.”
The Pheromone Disruption System (PDS) process, which forgoes any use of chemicals or pesticides, uses a tablet impregnated with female pheromones to prevent the male moths from reproducing.
As a male moth crawls across the chalk-like powder, the overwhelming amount of hormones stuns them while other males confuse them for females.
“You are effectively taking them out of the mating cycle,” Georgina Donovan, a spokesperson for Exosect, the agriculture technology company who developed the method, told The Daily Beast. “All you’re doing is confusing the moth population. While they spend all the extra time trying to find the right mates, it’s reducing offspring.”
The lifespan of the moths only last a couple of weeks, which puts their opportunity of reproducing into a very small window.
As a long-term solution, PDS repeatedly reduces the amount of reproduction through multiple cycles.
In observing the moths, scientists have noticed that the males who become covered in the female sex chemical become stunned, unable to find a mate, and causes nearby, unaffected males to began performing mating rituals such as the fanning of their wings.
Since implementing the trial run in 2010, the NHM has reduced the number of moths by 50 percent, helping protect its massive holdings of more than 80 million artifacts on display and stored in archives.
The act of same-sex mating isn’t new to the world of insects.
According to a recent study, 85 percent of male insects and spiders engage in homosexual acts—not out of attraction, but careless observation. (Well, we’ve all been there after a few vodka tonics.)
“Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty,” Dr. Scharf told the Independent. “The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates or the cost of hesitation appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes.”
Uh-huh, Dr. Scharf, uh-huh.
Hormone manipulation is no stranger to humans either.
While it is widely debated whether or not people effectively use pheromone communication, recent studies have found that certain chemicals can activate our sex hormones.
For instance, Hedione, which is commonly used in fragrances (Dior Eau Sauvage, Chanel No. 19, Blush by Marc Jacobs, and CKOne), is known to generate sex-specific activation patterns in women.
When it hits the nasal tissue, the hypothalamus becomes stimulated and a flood of sex hormones activates sexual responsiveness.
“It is the first time a scent has been known to activate the pheromone receptor VN1R in humans,” according to the Telegraph.
Humans are believed to only have five functioning receptors, while other animals, such as mice, have up to 300.
Whether or not Exosect’s technology of sexuality confusion can be translated to other members of the animal kingdom is yet to be confirmed. It may be a while, then, before we can ‘spray gay.’