Crop-emptying rate and nectar resource allocation in a nectivorous pollinator

Noah DeFino, Goggy Davidowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In nectivorous pollinators, timing and pattern of allocation of consumed nectar affects fitness traits and foraging behavior. Differences in male and female behaviors can influence these allocation strategies. These physiological patterns are not well studied in Lepidoptera, despite them being important pollinators. In this study we investigate crop-emptying rate and nectar allocation in Manduca sexta (Sphingidae), and how sex and flight influence these physiological patterns. After a single feeding event, moths were dissected at fixed time intervals to measure crop volume and analyze sugar allocation to flight muscle and fat body. Then we compared sedentary and flown moths to test how activity may alter these patterns. Sedentary males and females emptied their crops six hours after a feeding event. Both males and females preferentially allocated these consumed sugars to fat body over flight muscle. Moths began to allocate to the fat body during crop-emptying and retained these nutrients long-term (four and a half days after a feeding event). Males allocated consumed sugar to flight muscles sooner and retained these allocated nutrients in the flight muscle longer than did females. Flight initiated increased crop-emptying in females, but had no effect on males. Flight did not significantly affect allocation to flight muscle or fat body in either sex. This study showed that there are inherent differences in male and female nectar sugar allocation strategies, but that male and female differences in crop-emptying rate are context dependent on flight activity. These differences in physiology may be linked to distinct ways males and females maximize their own fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104617
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Carbon stable isotope
  • Fat body
  • Flight muscle
  • Manduca sexta
  • Nectar
  • Resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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