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Arts

Why is the Natural History Museum trying to turn moths ‘gay’?

Joseph McCormick June 16, 2015

The Natural History Museum in London is using an unusual tactic to try to save its exhibits – tricking male moths into being attracted to other males.

Pheromones are being used by the museum, in an attempt to stop moths from eating ancient exhibits, which are destroyed by the insects.

For the past four years, the museum in South Kensington has been infested with moths.

Curators are sometimes forced to place items into deep freeze, the only one of its kind in Europe, which is kept below 30 degrees Celsius for 72 hours or more to kill larvae and insects.

But in an attempt to stop moths from reproducing, experts have been brought into use the Pheromone Destruction System.

Male moths are enticed into traps filled with female pheromones, and when they fly in, get covered with the pheromone.

When they fly off, other males are then tricked into thinking they have found a potential mate.

“It’s called the Pheromone Destruction System and in simplistic terms, it makes male moths attracted to other male moths,” said Armando Mendex, quarantine facility manager at the museum, who is heading the project.

Mr Mendex went on: “They only live for a couple of weeks and during that time there is only a small window in which they can reproduce. If they spend this unknowingly attempting to attract and fertilise male moths, then it reduces the offspring we are up against.”

The number of moths has fallen by half since the new system was brought in.

More: Gay, insects, moths, natural history museum

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