Logo of pnasPNASInfo for AuthorsSubscriptionsAboutThis Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jun 21; 91(13): 5756–5760.

Reiterative responses to single strands of odor promote sustained upwind flight and odor source location by moths.


We characterized single upwind surges of flying male Heliothis virescens moths in response to individual strands of pheromone generated experimentally in a wind tunnel. We then showed how this surge functions in this species as a basic 13.4-cm, 0.38-sec-long building block that is strung together repeatedly during typical male upwind flight in a normal pheromone plume. The template for a single iteration, complete with crosswind casting both before and after the straighter upwind surging portion, was exhibited by males flying upwind to pheromone and experiencing filament contacts just frequently enough to produce successful upwind flight to the source, as hypothesized by an earlier model. Also as predicted, with more frequent filament contact by males, only the straightest upwind portions of the surges were reiterated, producing direct upwind flight with little crosswind casting. Electroantennogram recordings made from males in free flight upwind in a normal point source pheromone plume further support the idea that a high frequency of filaments encountered under the usual pheromone plume conditions promotes only these repeated straight surges. In-flight electroantennogram recordings also showed that when filament contacts cease, the casting, counterturning program begins to be expressed after a latency period of 0.30 sec. Together these results provide a plausible explanation for how male and female moths, and maybe other insects, fly successfully upwind in an odor plume and locate the source of odor, using a surging-casting, phasic-tonic response to the onset and disappearance of each odor strand.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.0M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Farkas SR, Shorey HH. Chemical trail-following by flying insects: a mechanism for orientation to a distant odor source. Science. 1972 Oct 6;178(4056):67–68. [PubMed]
  • Kennedy JS, Marsh D. Pheromone-regulated anemotaxis in flying moths. Science. 1974 May 31;184(4140):999–1001. [PubMed]
  • Baker TC, Kuenen LP. Pheromone source location by flying moths: a supplementary non-anemotactic mechanism. Science. 1982 Apr 23;216(4544):424–427. [PubMed]
  • Kanzaki R, Arbas EA, Strausfeld NJ, Hildebrand JG. Physiology and morphology of projection neurons in the antennal lobe of the male moth Manduca sexta. J Comp Physiol A. 1989 Aug;165(4):427–453. [PubMed]
  • Baker TC, Vogt RG. Measured behavioural latency in response to sex-pheromone loss in the large silk moth Antheraea polyphemus. J Exp Biol. 1988 Jul;137:29–38. [PubMed]
  • Willis MA, Arbas EA. Odor-modulated upwind flight of the sphinx moth, Manduca sexta L. J Comp Physiol A. 1991 Oct;169(4):427–440. [PubMed]
  • Schneiderman AM, Hildebrand JG, Brennan MM, Tumlinson JH. Trans-sexually grafted antennae alter pheromone-directed behaviour in a moth. Nature. 323(6091):801–803. [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences


Save items

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • Cited in Books
    Cited in Books
    NCBI Bookshelf books that cite the current articles.
  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...