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Moth and candle: the candle flame as a sexual mimic of the coded infrared wavelengths from a moth sex scent (pheromone)

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Abstract

The idea that antennal sensilla of insects (spines) are dielectric waveguides or resonators to electromagnetic energy presumes the emission of such energies from insect pheromones (sex scents) and host plant scents. It has lately been shown that many organic molecules chemiluminesce in the far ir and particularly in the 7–14-μm and 15–26-μm windows. Luminescence from the insect pheromone (sex scent) was predicted by P. S. Callahan in 1965. The prediction was based on the form, arrangement, and dielectric properties of the moth antenna sensilla (spines)—in short, on morphology and antenna design alone. The spectral emission in the 17-μm region for the cabbage looper moth pheromone (female sex scent) (Z)-7-dodecen-1-ol acetate is given. The male cabbage looper moth is attracted to the acetate molecule given off by the female. It is also demonstrated that the exact same coded far ir lines (17-μm region) are emitted by a candle flame. The male moth is highly attracted to and dies attempting to mate with the candle flame.

© 1977 Optical Society of America

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