I ordered a pheromone lure for the Emperor Moth from ALS today. It’s just arrived and now it’s hanging in one of those little laundry tab string bags, out in the garden, blowing in the breeze purportedly drawing in the male Saturnia pavonia…but nothing yet. It’s getting late in the day for this day-flying moth, so I might pack the lure away in a freezer bag in the freezer and try again tomorrow. Intriguingly, the female which looks like a greyed out version of the male is a night-flyer.
Meanwhile, I cannot find the chemical identity of the female sex pheromone for this species. I can’t seem to find a reference in my usual journal searching, although three US Saturnia species apparently use a long-chain aldehyde, (E4, Z9)-tetradecadienal. I will keep searching. This is where my passion for biology and chemistry overlap, you might say.
UPDATE: I discovered that S pavonia had two older names, not just Pavonia pavonia, but Eudia pavonia. As soon as I learned the latter, it was easy to find a research paper discussing the pheromone – (Z)-6,(Z)-11-hexadecadien-1-yl acetate, which is a close relative of another sex attractant pheromone, gossyplure, which is used in commercial breeding control of pest moths. Read more about it here.
This species is the only member of the Saturniidae that lives in the British Isles, it is found almost everywhere here from heathland to fenland, so there is a chance of at least one turning up. It is the poster-boy of the moth world. You can go away and look it up if you like, but I’ll only post a photo when I’ve snapped one of my own.