[In Our Time] Pheromones


21/02/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=64055489
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p071jzyp.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss how members of the same species send each other invisible chemical signals to influence the way they behave. Pheromones are used by species across the animal kingdom in a variety of ways, such as laying trails to be followed, to raise the alarm, to scatter from predators, to signal dominance and to enhance attractiveness and, in honey bees, even direct development into queen or worker.

The image above is of male and female ladybirds that have clustered together in response to pheromones.


Tristram Wyatt
Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford

Jane Hurst
William Prescott Professor of Animal Science at the University of Liverpool


Francis Ratnieks
Professor of Apiculture and Head of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Start Date: 2018-03-25

Finish Date: 2018-03-26


  • Darcin! Ha ha ha.
  • I hadn’t known until this episode that pheromones are defined by function, and not by chemical structure; and that everything can be a pheromone.
  • The exception to the rule – predators or competitors eavesdropping on prey pheromones to see what was going on was amazing.
  • The distinction between the two types of nasal systems / senses of smell is well worth reading further upon.


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