When laying their eggs, tobacco hawkmoths avoid plants that smell of caterpillar feces

Ovipositing insects use odor cues to select suitable food substrates for their offspring in order to increase the survival rates of the larvae. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology demonstrated that not only may plant odors determine the best oviposition site, but also the frass of other larvae of the same species. They specified the repelling substance in the feces of tobacco hornworm larvae which signals the presence of competing conspecifics to the female moths. Moreover, the researchers were able to identify an odorant receptor which is involved in the detection of the typical smell of larval frass and thereby governs competition avoidance during oviposition.

Quelle: IDW Informationsdienst Wissenschaft