Floral CO2 reveals flower profitability to moths

J Chem Ecol. 2004 Jun;30(6):1285-8. doi: 10.1023/b:joec.0000030298.77377.7d.


The hawkmoth Manduca sexta (Lepidoptera: Sphingidae), an experimentally favorable Lepidopteran that is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide (CO2), 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 CO2 and offer ample nectar. Thus, floral CO2 emission could indicate food-source profitability. This study documents that foraging Manduca moths prefer surrogate flowers that emit high levels of CO2, characteristic of newly opened Datura flowers. We show for the first time that CO2 may play an important role in the foraging behavior of nectar-feeding insects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atmosphere / chemistry*
  • Carbon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Carbon Dioxide / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Manduca / growth & development
  • Manduca / physiology*


  • Carbon Dioxide