Nursery pollination by a moth in Silene latifolia: the role of odours in eliciting antennal and behavioural responses


Author for correspondence: Stefan Dötterl Tel: +49 921 552466 Fax: +49 921 552786 Email:


  • • Since the 1970s it has been known that the nursery pollinator Hadena bicruris is attracted to the flowers of its most important host plant, Silene latifolia, by their scent. Here we identified important compounds for attraction of this noctuid moth.
  • • Gas chromatographic and electroantennographic methods were used to detect compounds eliciting signals in the antennae of the moth. Electrophysiologically active compounds were tested in wind-tunnel bioassays to foraging naïve moths, and the attractivity of these compounds was compared with that to the natural scent of whole S. latifolia flowers.
  • • The antennae of moths detected substances of several classes. Phenylacetaldehyde elicited the strongest signals in the antennae, but lilac aldehydes were the most attractive compounds in wind-tunnel bioassays and attracted 90% of the moths tested, as did the scent of single flowers.
  • • Our results show that the most common and abundant floral scent compounds in S. latifolia, lilac aldehydes, attracted most of the moths tested, indicating a specific adaptation of H. bicruris to its host plant.