, Volume 93, Issue 5, pp 255–258 | Cite as

Colour preferences influences odour learning in the hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum

  • Anna Balkenius
  • Almut Kelber
Short Communication


The hummingbird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum, learns colour fast and reliably. It has earlier been shown to spontaneously feed from odourless artificial flowers. Now, we have studied odour learning. The moths were trained to discriminate feeders of the same colour but marked with different odours. They did not learn to discriminate two natural flower odours when they were presented with the innately preferred colour blue, but they did learn this discrimination combined with yellow or green colours that are less attractive to the moth. The yellow colour could be trained to become as attractive as the innately preferred blue colour and the blue colour could be trained to become less attractive. This is the first proof of odour learning in a diurnal moth. The results show that M. stellatarum can use more than one modality in their foraging behaviour and that the system is plastic. By manipulating the preferences for the different colours, their influence on odour learning could be changed.


Odour Preference Test Artificial Flower Innate Preference Blue Flower 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Michael Pfaff for help with the breeding of the M. stellatarum, and Christian Balkenius for comments on the manuscript. We are grateful for the financial support by the Swedish Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell and Organism BiologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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