The spectral sensitivity of nectar feeding by adults of the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta was measured in free-choice experiments. The action spectrum displayed a narrow peak at 450 nm and a low secondary maximum at 560 nm. Thus, the feeding response is mediated primarily by blue-sensitive receptors containing the Manduca sexta photopigment P450, while green-sensitive receptors containing P520 play a minor role. A minimum at 500 nm separating the two peaks suggests mutual inhibition between green and blue receptors or negative interaction more proximally in the visual system. The action spectrum drops off abruptly at 400 nm, in accordance with an earlier finding that ultraviolet wavelengths, discerned by receptors containing P357, obstruct the feeding response. The spectral sensitivity of the Manduca sexta compound eye, determined by electroretinogram recordings, and earlier visual pigment measurements indicate that approximately 75 % of the receptors are green-sensitive, with the remainder divided between blue- and ultraviolet-sensitive cells. The distribution of receptor types in small areas of the retina was measured by their ultrastructural response to light. Green and ultraviolet receptors were found, but not the blue receptors that dominate the feeding response. Possibly they are concentrated in a particular region of the retina that has not yet been found.