Mating Interruptions For Moths

Pheromonones are being used to confuse tropical warehouse moths in a bid to slow down their reproduction rates.

tropical warehouse mothA leading food industry cleaning company is using science to disrupt moth mating cycles and prevent them contaminating chocolate bars. Hygiene Group is using pheromone technology to confuse male tropical warehouse moths, whose larvae can chew through foil wrapping.

The biological solution — which uses insect pheromones in place of traditional pesticides — is part of a long-term trial in conjunction with Exosect Ltd, a research and development company which specialises in environmentally friendly insect pest control.

An electrostatically-charged food grade wax powder soaked in female moth pheromone is used to attract male moths, which become covered in female pheromone. Other male moths then try to mate with the female pheromone-covered males, disrupting mating and egg-laying cycles.

Hygiene Group pest control division manager Dave Maxwell said, "It’s called ‘Auto-Confusion’, and where we’ve introduced it we’ve seen tropical warehouse moth numbers decline. It’s not a stand-alone solution, but is highly effective when used alongside regular cleaning processes, and without it there would have to be more cleaning done with pesticide sprays."

Hygiene Group has been using the process for three years, passing its findings and data back to Exosect, and expects to continue the trial for another year. It is the only hygiene management services provider using the process in the chocolate production environment.

The tropical warehouse moth, ephestia cautella, is now indigenous to the UK, having been introduced via imported cocoa beans used in chocolate-making. Females lay up to 350 eggs in their short 18-day lives and can cause considerable damage to stored goods by feeding or by contamination with webbing or frass.