Year of the Sphingidae – Odor Pollution

I’ve written before about how light pollution can affect moth behavior and foraging and studies have shown that light pollution can affect the way moths escape from predators such as bats.

But did you know that odor pollution can adversely affect moths as well? We already know that moths are amazing at chemosensing – some species can detect female pheromones from miles away. Many pollinating moths, especially hawkmoths, use volatile chemical emissions (aka “smells”) from plants to locate flowers to visit to drink nectar. Just like with pheromones, they can detect these chemicals over several miles.

A male Antheraea polyphemus with chemo-sensing antennae. Photo via Wikimedia commons.

Recently, entomologists at the University of Arizona found that competing odors from human pollutants like car exhaust can affect olfactory sensing in Manduca sexta, inhibiting them from sensing floral odors. This finding has obvious moth conservation implications and the researchers are investigating whether other insects are affected by odor pollution as well.

National Moth Week 2015 (July 18-26) is just around the corner! Register a public or private event here.

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