Floral CO(2) emission may indicate food abundance to nectar-feeding moths

Naturwissenschaften. 2004 Jul;91(7):329-33. doi: 10.1007/s00114-004-0532-x. Epub 2004 May 7.


As part of a study of the roles of the sensory subsystem devoted to CO(2) in the nectar-feeding moth Manduca sexta, we investigated CO(2) release and nectar secretion by flowers of Datura wrightii, a preferred hostplant of Manduca. Datura flowers open at dusk and wilt by the following noon. During the first hours after dusk, when Manduca feeds, the flowers produce considerable amounts of nectar and emit levels of CO(2) that should be detectable by moths nearby. By midnight, however, both nectar secretion and CO(2) release decrease significantly. Because nectar production requires high metabolic activity, high floral CO(2) emission may indicate food abundance to the moths. We suggest that hovering moths could use the florally emitted CO(2) to help them assess the nectar content before attempting to feed in order to improve their foraging efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Datura / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Moths / physiology*


  • Carbon Dioxide