You are here

Harvard Forest >

Harvard Forest REU Symposium Abstract 2006

  • Title: Historical and Contemporary Research into Sarracenia Moth Associates
  • Author: ()
  • Abstract:

    Archival material provided by the Frank Morton Jones collection at Yale University was used to design a website about the functional knowledge of pitcher plants in the early 20th century. FMJ was an entomological naturalist who in his early career catalogued and investigated the various insects associated with the North American Sarraceniaceae. He, along with a couple of chemists (Hepburn and St. John), investigated the chemical composition, behavior, and effects of the pitcher fluid. Two species of moth larvae are known to consume different parts of the pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea, Exyra fax and Papaipema appassionata. A more complete picture of the historical research done on pitcher plants and their associates allows current research to eliminate redundancy and explore new avenues. A survey of 12 Massachusetts bogs was performed to determine the presence or absence of these moths in these habitats. A 100 square meter plot was set up, with points at each meter, for a total of 100 points. At each point, we determined the microhabitat (high, low, flooded), hand collected ants, and also determined the nearest pitcher plant neighbor, taking census statistics at noting the presence or absence of moth damage to pitchers, flowers, or the rhizome. Water samples were collected at 5 points for nutrient analysis and moss samples were taken for identification. Bog ants nest disproportionately in high hummocks than in low or flooded areas (p < 0.001). High areas in the bog are less prone to flooding, providing a shelter during times of increased rainfall. Papaipema appassionata and Exyra fax do not show any preference for larger or smaller plants as measured by number of open pitchers (p = 0.23), rosette diameter (p = 0.3597), or the length of the longest leaf (p = 0.635). No selection for food size allows both species of moths to utilize more plants for propagation and to expand their ranges.

  • Research Category: Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions