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Odor And Butterflies

Sense of smell in insects is very sharp. Imagine, you have a nose that can smell like a butterfly and sniff like a bee, you can detect tiny amounts of chemicals which cause fire damage in wines. Australian scientists are in a mission to study smell receptors of insect antenna. If they understand the mechanism, they are well on their way to develop a Cyber nose.

Odor is caused by chemicals. Insects release chemicals for communication, offence and defense. They recognize odors to understand the environment especially the plants. Obviously plants also release chemicals which are detected by the insects. Odor interaction between insects and plants has been one of the important topics of study by the biologists all over the world.

The large white butterfly is a serious pest on cabbage in Estonia. Its larvae destroy cabbage plantations causing heavy losses to farmers.

Agricultural scientists have found that if French marigold, or Painted daisy or Chrysanthemum were grown along with cabbage, the butterfly attack was almost nil. They discovered that plants like French marigold released chemicals that acted as insect repellents. This lead to the conclusion that plants produce chemicals not only to attract insects, but also to repel.

The understanding of this phenomenon has lead to development of agricultural strategies, to save crops from pests on one hand, and on the other to analyze the chemical relationship between plants and insects.

In Estonia, agricultural farmers discovered, it was not wise to grow onion along with cabbage. Onion attracted the large white butterfly, which eventually attacked the cabbage. Plants like chrysanthemum or French marigold, when grown along with cabbage prevented butterfly attack. This kind of farming is called companion plantation farming. The strategy has saved crops from insect attack all over the world.

On the other side of the story, Butterfly farmers have identified specific plant species that produce butterfly friendly odors. Such plants have found special significance in Butterfly farming.