The influence of larval diet on adult feeding behaviour in the tobacco hornworm moth, Manduca sexta

Robert A. Raguso, Tamairé Ojeda-Avila, Sheetal Desai, Melissa A. Jurkiewicz, H. Arthur Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Lab-reared sphingid and noctuid moths appear to feed less than wild moths, and often are starved to enhance responsiveness in feeding assays. To measure the impact of larval nutrition on adult feeding, we raised a model sphingid species, Manduca sexta, on control or modified diets (reduced sugar, protein or water, supplemented β-carotene) or cut tobacco leaves, then conducted feeding assays with artificial flowers. Behaviour was scored and analysed in a double-blind manner. Larval diet affected adult eclosion time, size and fat content, the latter of which was inversely proportional to moth approaches to the floral array in a flight cage. In contrast, behaviours refractory to feeding (sitting, escaping) were associated with sex and barometric pressure, but not with diet or fat content. Frequency of floral approaches and probing was not associated with any variable. However, moths reared on β-carotene-supplemented diet were 2-3 times more likely to feed, and significantly less likely to sit or show "escape" behaviour than were moths from most other treatments. Our results suggest that decreased visual sensitivity, rather than increased fat content, accounts for reduced adult feeding by lab-reared M. sexta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-932
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Artificial diet
  • Fat composition
  • Manduca sexta
  • Nectar foraging
  • Starvation
  • Visual pigment


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