In order to find a mate, many species of beetles must exude the perfect sexy scent at the exact right time.
These suitors are required to release the correct perfume at the perfect time of the day and season of the year, the University of Arizona reported.
"We found that beetles that produce the same pheromone are active at different times of day - and that beetles that are active at the same time of day produce different pheromones," said lead author Robert F. Mitchell, a UA research associate in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for Insect Science.
The team also found beetle species that all gave off the same pheromone tended to segregate their mating behavior according to the seasons.
"Smell is an underappreciated sense in people - but when you talk about insects, many 'see' their world in chemicals," Mitchell said. "The most common thing they say with pheromones is, 'I'm looking for a mate.'"
Among the longhorned beetle family, different species were observed to use the same pheromone, which contradicts the idea that each species has its own unique scent. After setting out beetle traps baited with a certain pheromone, the researchers found the traps contained a "big multi-species party" at the end of the day.
"We asked, 'How do they tell each other apart if they're all producing the same thing?'" Mitchell said.
They used a rotating trap that can separate the insects by the time of day they were caught, and found some species entered primarily in the daytime while others were active in the early evening and night. Further studies also showed the species varied in what season they searched for a mate.
"Our research provides a framework for understanding how insects that produce the same pheromone can produce separate signals," Mitchell said. "[This research is useful because] pheromones are promising alternatives to pesticides as a means of monitoring and controlling pests."
Traps could be baited with appropriate pheromones, allowing researchers to trap pests and even track their movement.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Chemical Ecology.