The science behind the W·H·Y Trap
Sterling International employs seven scientists, including two Ph.D.s and experts in fields such as entomology, chemical ecology, field biology, electrophysiology and organic chemistry.
Our 4200 square-foot insect research laboratory houses a device called an Electro Antennographic Detector (EAD) that allows the scientist to "read" an insect's mind through the antenna. Dr. Qing-He Zhang, director of R&D for Sterling, is one of only a handful of people in the world who know how to run this device. During the W·H·Y Trap development process, he tested various naturally-occurring substances on the antennae of close to 1000 insects.
Our biologists collect live insects from the field and bring them to the lab, where Dr. Zhang removes the antenna from the wasp, hornet or yellowjacket. Though detached from the body, the antenna remains "alive" for several hours. He attaches electrodes to each end of the antenna and hooks it up to the EAD.
If Dr. Zhang has a hunch about a certain scent -- a plant extract, for example -- and its potential as an attractant for the insect, he places the organic materials into an aeration chamber that absorbs a scent sample. That sample is then separated into its chemical components and pushed through the EAD to make contact with the antenna.
If the antenna registers a response to the scent, it's noted on a computerized graph. This EAD test will not reveal, however, whether the reaction is positive or negative -- repellent or attractive.
Once we hit upon a substance that appeared to stimulate the antenna, the Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS) determined the actual chemical structure of that scent. The GC separates the organic substance into its chemical ingredients, while the MS reconfirms these chemical properties by evaluating the mass of each component.
It's then up to our organic chemists to craft a recipe that replicates the chemical compounds which stimulated the antenna. Finally, our biologists take this recipe "to the street" -- actually, the field -- to test it on the insects, all throughout the country.
If the recipe is found to be appealing to the insects, the work is not done. Our scientists must come up with a trap design. Though the attractant may draw the insects to the trap, the structure must provide an easy way for them to enter, while preventing their escape.
Thanks to years of persistence in testing wasps, hornets and yellowjackets, our scientists now have the answer: W·H·Y.