Three species of North American heliothine moths were used to determine the level at which interspecific female interference of male attraction to conspecific females occurs. We used live calling females of Heliothis virescens, H. subflexa, and Helicoverpa zea, as lures for conspecific males in a wind tunnel, and then placed heterospecific females on either side of the original species such that the plumes of the three females overlapped downwind. In nearly all combinations, in the presence of heterospecific females, fewer males flew upwind and contacted or courted the source than when only conspecific females were used in the same spatial arrangement. Males did not initiate upwind flight to solely heterospecific female arrangements. Our results show that the naturally emitted pheromone plumes from heterospecific females of these three species can interfere with the ability of females to attract conspecific males when multiple females are in close proximity. However, the fact that some males still located their calling, conspecific females attests to the ability of these male moths to discriminate point source odors by processing the conflicting information from interleaved strands of attractive and antagonistic odor filaments on a split-second basis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics