What is pheromone?« Back to Questions List

Spill some sugar on the floor and leave it for some time. If you live in a region with varied insects around you, you are sure to see an army of ants around the spilt sugar. But how does one ant communicate to others about the discovered treat? Not just ants, lots of insects and aquatic organisms communicate with each other by emitting some chemical substance outside their body to let the other members of their species to understand what they want to communicate.

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Scientists have discovered that the fire ants mark trails between their nests and food sources with a very powerful chemical. This excreted chemical is attractive only to other fire ants. The chemical is so potent that a trail a million miles long would take just a single teaspoonful. Such chemical substances secreted by insects for giving a message to their family and friends are called pheromones.

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Pheromones are not only secreted to signal the food source but also for many other purposes. At times of danger, they secrete as alarm pheromone. These alarm kind of signals are dissipated within a minute. Pheromones intent on keeping a group together last for a longer time. They can also be used as mating signals too. Epideictic pheromones are secreted by the females to let other females that the territory has been used by them to lay eggs and that others must move on to some other place to lay eggs. Territorial pheromones are a signal to communicate their boundaries of an organism’s territory.



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