Hawkmoths (Lepidoptera, Sphingidae) in the Tabuleiro Paraibano, northeastern Brazil: abundance, richness and relations to sphingophilous plants.
Hawkmoths (Sphingidae) are among the major pollinators in tropical communities. Here the first survey of sphingids and related plants in Northeastern Brazil is presented. The sphingids were surveyed from March 1999 through April 2000 at the Reserva Biológica Guaribas, Mamanguape, Paraíba State, Brazil. On black and mix light traps, 136 hawkmoths from 24 species were captured. Individuals of Erinnyis ello, Isognathus menechus and Xylophanes tersa represented 58% of the samples. One half of the recorded species show wide distribution in the Neotropics. Three species were registered for more than six months. Most of the species were found only in the dry or wet season. Pollen from 34 plant species were recorded by pollen analysis of sphingid mouth parts. Hancornia speciosa and Guettarda platypoda were the most important food plants. Both are characteristic elements of the Tabuleiro Nordestino and present typically sphingophilous flowers. More than one half of the sphingids presented pollen from only one or two species of plants. By transporting large quantities of pollen of a few species, hawkmoths seem to be the main pollinators of nocturnal flowers in the Tabuleiro Paraibano.