An analysis of anemotactic flight in female moths stimulated by host odour and comparison with the males' response to sex pheromone


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ABSTRACT. The flight pattern of mated female navel orangeworm moths, Amyelois transitella (Walker), responding to odour from potential larval hosts is zigzagging upwind flight. However, at times these moths are capable of flying nearly directly upwind towards the odour source (track angles near 0d̀). This response indicates that these females are capable of very accurate anemotactic control of their heading or course angle, since small angular errors in this measure would translate into larger deviations from direct upwind flight. Males of this species exhibit flight patterns similar to those of females, including track angles clustered about 0d̀ when flying upwind to a source of the female‐produced pheromone, but under these experimental conditions they flew with a higher average airspeed than the females. When females lose contact with an odour plume they initiate a well‐defined programme of cross‐wind counterturning or casting, which may normally increase their chances of retrieving contact with that plume when the wind direction shifts. The resultant track angles of females increase significantly by 0.8 s after plume loss, indicating that the female has initiated changes in both her course angle and airspeed. By 1 s after plume loss the females' track angles are no longer unimodally distributed about 0d̀, but are bimodally distributed about ‐90d̀ and +90d̀. Males responded more rapidly to the loss of a pheromone plume, demonstrating a significant change in track angle 0.4 s after plume loss. Overall, female and male A.transitella exhibited remarkably similar anemotactic flight manoeuvres during upwind flight to odour sources as well as after plume loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-289
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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