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This moth mates as a butterfly

A study conducted by scientists from the CSIC and the UAB describes the first known case of a female moth which has lost the pheromone gland, therefore doesn’t produce pheromones to attract males and it behaves like day-flying butterflies.


Paysadinia archon. Day-flying butterflies and night-flying moths are exposed to different environmental pressures, which make them to evolve in different ways. Therefore, their physiology and behavior are different. One example can be seen in the communication of the  partner-finding strategy.

In the case of day-flying butterflies, females don’t have pheromone glands. Their strategy is mostly based on visual cues, as they use the form and colour of the wings to attract partners at some distance.

On the contrary, female moths base their sexual communication on the emission of long-range pheromones which are detected by males at some distance.

In both cases, butterflies and moths, once the couples are formed and in close courtship interactions, females and, in some cases, also males, emit short-range pheromones which facilitate the last steps leading to copulation.

Now, a research conducted by scientists at the CSIC’s Instituto de Química Avanzada de Catalunya (IQAC), and at the Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Ambientales of the UAB university (ICTA-UAB), describes the case of Paysandisia archon, the first known case of a female moth which has lost the pheromone gland, therefore doesn’t produce pheromones to attract males and it behaves like day-flying butterflies.

Angel Guerrero and Carmen Quero, CSIC researchers at the IQAC and co-authors of the study, explain that “this moth, which has evolved to behave as butterflies, attracts their possible partners flying and using visual cues and not through long-range pheromones”.

It is, scientists say, the only known case of convergent evolution among moths. Possibly, they say, “this fact might have occurred also in other lepidoptera of the Castniidae family, to which Paysandisia belongs”.

The research, published in the Bulletin of Entomological Research, describes the changes in the behavior and mating strategies of this moth and compare them with other day-flying butterflies.

They have identified other compounds, emitted by the males, which could be applied for a better control of the Paysandisia archon pest

Paysandisia archon is a Neotropical species, which arrived in Europe in 2001, from Argentina. Because their morphological and genetic characteristics, it is considered a moth, but it is active during the day and not at night which has determined its evolution

This study confirms the results of a previous study (2), where the same team found out that this moth doesn’t attract partners by long-range pheromones.

Nevertheless, says Guerrero, “we have found another type of pheromones, more specifically three types of short-distance pheromones, emitted by the males and whose function has not been determined yet. If their function is ever discovered they could be used to study better the chemical communication between males and females and, possibly, for a better control of the Paysandisia archon pest”. Paysandisia archon has become a serious pest of many palm species and it is causing important losses in Mediterranean countries, especially Spain, France and Italy”.

Articulos de referencia:

(1)Sarto i Monteys V., Quero C., Santa-Cruz M.C., Rosell G., Guerrero A. "Sexual communication in day-flying Lepidoptera with special reference to castniids or ‘butterfly-moths’". Bulletin of Entomological Research. 2016, p. 1-11. DOI:

(2) Victor Sarto i Monteys, Patricia Acín,  Gloria Rosell, Carmen Quero, Miquel A. Jimenez and Angel Guerrero. “Moths behaving like butterflies. Evolutionary loss of long range attractant pheromones in castniid moths: A Paysandisia archon model”. PLoS ONE, 7 (1), e29282, 1-11 (2012), DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029282

Un estudio realizado por científicos del CSIC y de la UAB describe el primer caso conocido de una polilla hembra que ha perdido su glándula feromonal, no produce feromonas para atraer al macho, y se comporta como una mariposa diurna.