Eat, Drink, Live: Foraging behavior of a nectarivore when relative humidity varies but nectar resources do not

Heidy L. Contreras, Joaquin Goyret, Clayton T. Pierce, Robert A. Raguso, Goggy Davidowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


To meet energetic and osmotic demands, animals make dynamic foraging decisions about food quality and quantity. In the wild, foraging animals may be forced to consume a less preferred or sub-optimal food source for long periods of time. Few choice feeding assays in laboratory settings approximate such contingencies. In this study the foraging behaviors of the hawkmoth Manduca sexta were measured when adult moths were placed within different relative humidity (RH) environments (20%, 40%, 60% and 80% RH) and provided with only one of the following experimental nectars: 0% (water), 12% or 24 % w/V sucrose solutions. Overall, ambient humidity influenced survivorship and foraging behaviors. Moth survivorship increased at higher ambient humidity regardless of experimental nectar. Moths that had access to experimental nectar imbibed large volumes of fluid regardless of what nectar was offered when placed at the lowest humidity (20% RH). However, when placed at the highest humidity (80% RH), moths imbibed higher volumes of fluid when given access to experimental nectar with sucrose in comparison with water. RH also influenced daily foraging behaviors: peak nectar consumption occurred earlier at lower RH levels. Consistent with previous studies in which moths could choose among nectar solutions, total energy intake was not affected by ambient RH under no-choice conditions. However, the proportion of time spent foraging and total energy consumption were significantly reduced across all RH levels in no-choice assays, when compared with previous studies of choice assays under the same conditions. Our results show that even when M. sexta moths are presented with limited options, they can alter their foraging behavior in response to environmental changes, enabling them to meet osmotic and/or energetic demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104450
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • Feeding behavior
  • Hawkmoths
  • Humidity
  • Manduca sexta
  • Nectar preference
  • Osmoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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