Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Candlestick Plant and Insects

Name: Donna
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: TX
Country: USA
Date: Summer 2011

Does a candlestick plant have some sort of calming effect on yellow jackets and hornets. They seem very calm and almost lazy crawling around on the plant's stems. They do not hover over the plant. The plant is not in bloom yet. Never seen anything like this.

I am unaware of any reports of this phenomenon in the scientific literature. The Candlestick plant is a workhorse in traditional human medicine (ethnobotany), so it’s likely to have a raft of undescribed functions in nature. The behavior could be attributed to an attractive volatile (scent) evolving from the plant, like a pheromone. Evolutionarily, plants are very astute and can often coax insects to serve as bodyguards (although usually they seek to repel insects by producing built-in pesticides). On the other hand, the scent might be a borderline intoxicant on par with catnip! Alternatively, the attractiveness of the plant may be due to visual cues, although you noted that the plant had yet to flower. This would seem to endorse the olfactory theory. See if an entomologist at a local university would be willing to investigate this further. If the cause of this behavior is a plant volatile, you’d need to tease out all of the respective compounds from the plant extract and test each individually in a controlled experiment. If you can duplicate the results you initially observed, you might have yourself a commercial product.

Dr. Tim Durham Instructor, Office of Curriculum and Instruction University Colloquium Department of Biological Sciences Florida Gulf Coast University

Click here to return to the Botany Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory