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Bombykol is a sex pheromone, an attractant released by animals – and humans – to send signals about their body to each other. They are mini-messengers that influence one another’s hormone systems. From ants and moths to goldfish, kangaroos and dogs – virtually all social animals communicate with pheromones in their own way.

Bombykol is the pheromone used by silkworm moths to locate each other over large distances. Insects also use pheromones to mark the way. Ants, for example, do just what Hansel and Gretel did with bread crumbs: they leave behind a minimal trace or scent for their fellow ants to follow. Each ant leaves behind new pheromone ‘crumbs’, causing the scent trail on a popular route to become stronger and stronger.

Subconsciously, people are able to smell whether or not someone is of the opposite sex. But there is still a lot to be learned about how we communicate via pheromones, despite what the deodorant ads say.

Last modified:12 April 2021 1.22 p.m.
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