Floral CO 2 reveals flower profitability to moths

Corinna Thom, Pablo G. Guerenstein, Wendy L. Mechaber, John G. Hildebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The hawkmoth Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae), an experimentally favorable Lepidopteran that is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide (CO 2), feeds on the nectar of a range of flowering plants, such as Datura wrightii (Solanaceae). Newly opened Datura flowers give off dramatically elevated levels of CO 2 and offer ample nectar. Thus, floral CO 2 emission could indicate food-source profitability. This study documents that foraging Manduca moths prefer surrogate flowers that emit high levels of CO 2, characteristic of newly opened Datura flowers. We show for the first time that CO 2 may play an important role in the foraging behavior of nectar-feeding insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1288
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • CO
  • Datura wrightii
  • Manduca sexta
  • foraging
  • insect-plant interactions
  • labial-palp pit organ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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