It found that one in particular — 4-vinylanisole, or 4VA — appeared to attract locusts when emitted, and that the more locusts flocked together, the more 4VA they emitted.
The team, led by Le Kang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, found solitary locusts began releasing 4VA when just four were placed together in a cage.
The team then examined how the locusts picked up the scent, and isolated the part of the locust antennae responsible for detecting the swarming pheromone.
And from there, they found the gene necessary for the detection process and produced genetically modified locusts lacking the key Or35 gene.
The “mutant locusts lost their attraction to 4VA compared with the wild-type locusts”, the study said.