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Volume 2012, Article ID 378050, 10 pages
Research Article

Foraging Behavior of the Blue Morpho and Other Tropical Butterflies: The Chemical and Electrophysiological Basis of Olfactory Preferences and the Role of Color

1McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
2Center for Medical Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA-ARS, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA

Received 31 October 2011; Revised 9 January 2012; Accepted 18 January 2012

Academic Editor: Russell Jurenka

Copyright © 2012 Alexandra Sourakov et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Inside a live butterfly exhibit, we conducted bioassays to determine whether the presence of color would facilitate the location of attractants by the butterflies. It was found that color facilitated odor attraction in some species that feed on flowers (Parthenos silvia, Heraclides thoas, Dryas julia, and Idea leuconoe), but not in the exclusively fruit-feeding species, such as Morpho helenor, hence demonstrating that species with different natural diets use different foraging cues. Green, ripe, and fermented bananas were evaluated for their attractiveness to butterflies together with honey and mangoes. The fermented bananas were determined to be the most attractive bait, and the electrophysiological responses to their volatiles were studied in Morpho helenor and Caligo telamonius. During GC-EAD evaluation, fifteen different aliphatic esters, such as isobutyl isobutyrate, butyl acetate, ethyl butanoate, and butyl butanoate (both fermentation products and fruit semiochemicals) were shown to be detected by the butterflies’ sensory apparatus located in the forelegs, midlegs, proboscis, labial palpi, and antennae. Legs, proboscis, and antennae of Morpho helenor and Caligo telamonius showed similar sensitivity, reacting to 11 chemicals, while labial palpi had a lower signal-to-noise ratio and responded to seven chemicals, only three of which produced responses in other organs.