Hawkmoth sensory biology & foraging behavior

Sources of Funding:

US National Science Foundation Grant IBN-0444163 "Detection, perception and use of floral CO2 by nectar feeding Manduca sexta".

US National Science Foundation Grant IOS-0923765: "Scale- and context-dependence of relative humidity to adult Manduca sexta behavior".

Moths

Observations

  1. Night blooming flowers are highly reflective and strongly scented, but artificial flowers (above, right panel) with these attributes are not as effective as natural flowers in attracting moths and eliciting feeding behaviors.
  2. Nectar availability declines rapidly in natural populations of such flowers, whereas visual and olfactory display continue for hours after flowers have been drained.
  3. Ephemeral environmental cues such as relative humidity and CO2 may more accurately indicate the presence of nectar in newly opened flowers.
  4. Hawkmoths can perceive these cues, and should use them opportunistically, in the correct (nectar-feeding, patch specific) context.
  5. Hawkmoths rapidly learn to handle flowers of different morphologies (see below) in an appetitive context.

Moths2

Questions:

  1. Do hawkmoths respond differently to CO2 or RH depending upon the presence of other floral (or plant) stimuli?
  2. Do female moths respond differently than males to such stimuli?
  3. Do environmental cues have different meanings at different spatial scales; can CO2 and RH be used for habitat selection at one scale and floral choices at another?
  4. How might floral CO2 and RH synergize responses to other sensory cues?