Flight of Heliothis virescens males in the field in response to sex pheromone

Neil J. Vickers, Thomas C. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The behaviour of Heliothis virescens males flying upwind in the field in a sex pheromone plume was videorecorded and analysed. Males flew faster and straighter, with less counterturning, and heading more directly into the wind when they were 9-11 m away from the odour source than when they were 1-3 m away. Regardless of their distance from the source or the windspeed, they maintained an average groundspeed of c. 200 cm s-1, except when they arrived within 1 m of the source, when their groundspeed slowed significantly. Two or more males flying in the plume at the same instant often exhibited either extremely straight and directly upwind tracks or else zigzagging tracks with significant counterturning (as did males flying through the field of view of the cameras at slightly different times). The males' position, either in the centre of the plume's axis or along one side, might explain these differences in track straightness, which previous studies with H. virescens have shown to be caused by higher frequencies of contact with plume filaments. When a significant shift in wind direction occurred; males tended to make an initial movement in the direction of the shift, perhaps due to latencies of response in both the olfactory and visual systems associated with flying into clean air. The males' behaviour in the field overall was similar to that observed in the wind tunnel, except that their airspeeds and groundspeeds were significantly higher than those observed in the laboratory. The fact that they flew faster in the field can be explained both by the significantly higher windspeeds that males need to compensate for in the field to attain a preferred velocity of image motion, as well as by a higher height of flight over the ground in the field causing a slower apparent motion of images at a given groundspeed compared with the laboratory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-285
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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