Water Vapor Absorption in Insects

Am J Physiol. 1983 Feb;244(2):R187-92. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1983.244.2.R187.


In common with other animals the principal examples of water transport in insects are to be found in processing food and in excretion. Some insects and other arthropods are able to absorb water vapor using preexisting buccal or rectal structures. This unique exploitation of atmospheric water depends on adequate areas for condensing water vapor and the capacity for considerable "uphill" water transport. All known uptake mechanisms depend on producing fluids of sufficiently low water activity to bring about condensation from a range of environmental humidities. In the best-understood examples (mealworms and their relatives) active KCl transport by the Malpighian tubules generates osmotic pressures sufficient to extract water from activities down to 0.88. A standing gradient model seems to describe the coupling in the tubular lumen between water flows and ion transport. Low water permeabilities and ion transport modulated with flow rate are unusual features of this coupling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Permeability
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Water