In this activity, students will answer questions while watching the video Oversexed Moths are Ruining Apples for Everyone from the Ingenious series produced by the American Chemical Society. Each episode investigates a different topic related to how leading-edge chemistry is taking on the world’s most urgent issues to advance everyone’s quality of life and secure our shared future. This episode investigates how the larvae of codling moths wreak havoc in orchards—burrowing into fruit and eating them from the inside out. Scientists are developing synthetic, species-specific pheromones as an alternative to pesticides. Pheromones are scented chemical messages that animals release at mating time and can help to prevent male codling moths from finding females to mate with. No mating means no eggs, no larvae and no more bad apples!
By the end of this activity, students should be able to:
- Explain why codling moth larvae are a pest for farmers.
- Define the term pheromones and provide a basic overview of how they are used by animals in nature.
- Describe how synthetic pheromones can be used to help farmers prevent damage of their fruit crops.
- Explain the challenges and innovations associated with scaling up the synthetic pheromone implementation to provide a pest solution for farmers.
This activity supports students’ understanding of:
- Environmental Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Molecular Structure
- Chemical Properties
Teacher Preparation: minimal
Lesson: 10-20 minutes
- Ingenious Video: Oversexed Moths are Ruining Apples for Everyone
- Student Handout
- Computer and projector with volume, or student device to access video
- No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.
- The Ingenious video series spotlights stories from the frontlines of chemistry research and development, where passionate innovators are stepping up to confront problems like pollution, overfishing, sustainability and personal safety.
- This video, Oversexed Moths are Ruining Apples for Everyone, investigates how the larvae of codling moths wreak havoc in orchards—burrowing into fruit and eating them from the inside out. Pesticides have always been the solution to the old “worm in the apple” problem, but pesticides kill all the insects in the field, even the good ones. Instead of pesticides, farmers may soon use pheromones, those scented chemical messages that animals release at mating time. Spreading synthetic, species-specific pheromones as an alternative to pesticides keeps the male codling moths from finding females to mate with. No mating means no eggs, no larvae and no more bad apples! Scaling up agricultural pheromones has proven difficult, but innovative approaches to pheromone production (using yeast cells) and distribution (with the help of customized weather stations) are starting to make it happen.
- The running time of this video is about 5 minutes and 30 seconds. As it is a short video and it moves quickly, you may want to show it twice, or instruct students to pause the video as needed on their own devices to ensure that they can record answers to all of the questions.
- The student questions are presented in sequential order in the video.
- An answer key has also been provided for teacher reference.
- The final questions are reflection-based and might be helpful in prompting a class discussion after students have a few minutes to answer them independently.
- The AACT classroom resource library offers a wide selection of teaching resources. Below are several select resources that could be used in combination with the topics highlighted in this video.
For the Student
While watching the video, answer the following questions:
- Why are codling moth larvae such a pest for farmers?
- True or False? Pesticides are not able to kill the codling moth larvae.
- True or False? To prevent codling moth larvae from destroying fruit orchards, you must kill every single one of them.
- Very briefly, explain what a pheromone is, and why it is important.
- True or False? Pheromones can be created in a lab (synthetically).
- How do the synthetic pheromones trick a male codling moth, and effectively break the mating cycle?
- True or False? Synthetic pheromones can have a negative impact on other insect species.
- True or False? Synthetic pheromones are pretty easily developed by scientists in the lab.
- True or False? Yeast is a very important part of developing synthetic pheromones for the codling moth.
- What important characteristics did scientists need to consider when developing a sprayable pheromone?
- True or False? The microcapsules that contain the pheromone are basically a sticky polymer ball that allows the pheromone to be released over time.
- What common household product does the video use as a comparison example for how the pheromone containing polymer capsule works?
After you watch the video, reflect on the following questions:
- Can you think of any other benefits related to developing synthetic pheromones? Discuss your thoughts.
- What questions would you have for a scientist in this field? What more do you want to know?