, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 53-57

Preference of cabbage white butterflies and honey bees for nectar that contains amino acids

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Amino acids occur in most floral nectars but their role in pollinator attraction is relatively unstudied. Nectars of butterfly-pollinated flower tend to have higher concentrations of amino acids than do flowers pollinated by bees and many other animals, suggesting that amino acids are important attractants of butterflies to flowers. In order to determine whether amino acids are important in attracting butterflies and bees, we tested the preference of cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae) and honey bees (Apis mellifera) by allowing them to feed from artificial flowers containing sugar-only or sugar-amino acid mimics ofLantana camara nectar. Honey bees and female cabbage white butterflies consumed more sugar-amino acid nectar than sugar-only nectar. In addition, female cabbage white butterflies visited artificial flowers containing sugar-amino acid nectars more frequently than flowers containing sugar-only nectars; honey bees spent more time consuming the sugar-amino acid nectar. Male cabbage white butterflies did not discriminate between the two nectars. These results support the hypothesis that the amino acids of nectar contribute to pollinator attraction and/or feeding.