Illustration of Pheromone

1959 Pheromone

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Adolf Butenandt biology Illustration of Pheromone


Adolf Butenandt discovered the first pheromone to be described chemically. Earlier entomologists had recognized stimulating chemicals affecting insects, but almost all animals produce chemical signals, for many purposes inducing aggregation, expressing alarm, claiming ownership, marking a trail or area, triggering a change in behavior or development, communicating or promoting sexual readiness.


The female silkworm moth releases bombykol to attract mates. What improves survival of the species can also be used against them. Bombykol lures and bombykol decoys protect mulberry trees from wild silkmoths.

Hard to say

It’s hard to say why I hesitate. I used to think I was so smart. Nothing’s changed but everything’s different.

Speculation about pheromones in human beings opposes the notion that we are entirely rational creatures. The ideal of rationality is a fairly weak leg to stand on. Certainly we are not the only animal without instincts. The origin of chemical signaling goes back to the first animal and is shared by all living things including bacteria.

The Traditional Chinese character for silkworm is assumed to feature a small worm in a cacoon.

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