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Chemical Ecology: The Chemistry of Biotic Interaction
FIGURE 1 Female arctiid moth in a wind tunnel. Pheromone emission as a visible stream of liquid droplets is shown. Photo by S. Krasnoff.
It is the existence of these organs that many of the Families of Lepidoptera, especially among the moths, owe the continuance of the species. They operate in the association of the sexes, with such an irrestible and far-reaching force as to exceed our conception and to be marvelous to our eyes. . . . Can not chemistry come to the aid of the economic entomologist in furnishing at moderate cost, the odorous substances needed? Is the imitation of some of the more powerful animal secretions impracticable?
This statement sums up much of the research that has been conducted on the chemistry of sex attraction in insects over the past few decades. Research efforts have focused on the overt chemical signals used in the mating process, with the driving force and financial backing for much of the research due to the potential for use of synthetic pheromone chemicals in pest control programs. This effort has resulted in the identification of sex attractants for >1600 insect species from >90 families in nine orders, with an emphasis on Lepidoptera (2). The variety and complexity of chemical structures (>300 reported structures) observed among the various insect orders attest to the insect's amazing ability to sequester and synthesize unique structures and blends, mainly composed of acetogenins and mevalogenins. These essential signaling chemicals of the "sex attractant" communication system are interesting but represent only the more obvious chemicals involved in complex systems of synchronous emitters and receivers. Rather than review all data on this enormous