Pollen accumulation on hawkmoths varies substantially among moth-pollinated flowers
By Smith et al.
Manduca sexta visits Oenothera harringtonii
pollen carried by flower visitors such as bees or moths is an excellent way to
forensically reconstruct their behavior, such as the types of flowers they were
visiting. This reconstruction, however, requires some assumptions: for example,
to reconstruct the relative frequency with which they visited different
flowers, you must assume that pollen from different flowers is picked up at
similar rates. We tested this assumption for a number of flowers that are
visited by hawkmoths, and found that despite similar natural pollinators the
plants differed substantially in the amount of pollen they placed on the moths.
Our findings suggest that comparisons within plant species (e.g., the amount of
primrose pollen on two different pollinators) are likely sound, but that
comparisons across plant species (e.g., the amount of primrose vs rock trumpet
pollen on a single pollinator individual) should be cautious.