Colin S. Brent

ScienceShot: An Anti-Aphrodisiac

Think of it as the anti-"Axe effect." Unlike the fragrant body spray some guys douse themselves with to attract women, male plant bugs (Lygus hesperus) deposit something on females that keeps members of the opposite sex away. Now researchers say they've figured out the secret of this sexual deterrent. In the November issue of Animal Behaviour, a team reports the identification of a chemical compound known as myristyl acetate in the male plant bug spermatophore, a capsule containing sperm that is transferred to the female during copulation. When the scientists applied this compound on virgin females, males fled. The "anti-aphrodisiac" doesn't just help the male keep the female to himself; it also prevents other males from wasting their time courting a female that's not going to mate with him. And because plant bugs damage crops across North America, the researchers hope the discovery will lead to new ways to combat the insects without the need for nasty pesticides.

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