June 30, 2014

Researchers at the University of Washington and University of Arizona have found that background odors like pollution can keep moths from finding the scent of the flowers they need for food.

The researchers used wind tunnel tests to find that moths could be confused when the scent of their preferred Sacred Datura flowers was mixed with creosote bushes, which naturally grow alongside flowers. The test also showed the moths could be confused by man-made scents such as car exhaust. Since the moths need to feed often - one flower fuels the moth for about 15 minutes - any confusion can be a problem for the insects.

The moths are pollinators for the flowers, and the researchers say a natural next step is to see if other pollinators, such as honeybees, are also affected by pollution and other man-made scents.

See the full story at UW Today.

Photo by Kiley Riffell