What a hawkmoth remembers after hibernation depends on innate preferences and conditioning situation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Nectar-feeding insects find flowers by 2 means, innate preferences and learned associations. When insects that hibernate as imagos (i.e., adults) start foraging after a long winter break, what guides them to new nectar rewards? Are innate preferences kept over such a long period? And are learned associations useful after long breaks? In a series of experiments I show here that, depending on previous experience, the European hummingbird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum can use both types of information to choose a first flower after periods of 1 or 3 weeks. What is remembered seems to depend on innate preferences of the moths. Moths trained to feed from 1 of 2 colors that are equally attractive to naive moths keep the learned preference. Animals trained to prefer a less attractive color to an innately preferred color loose the learned preference and return to the innate choice behavior. I conclude that hummingbird hawkmoths can keep innate and learned preferences over a long period and are able to use both types of information when searching nectar rewards after long periods of hibernation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology


  • stellatarum, Macroglossum, long-term memory, Lepidoptera, hummingbird hawkmoth, hibernation, hawkmoth, insects, color learning, innate preferences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1097
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch