Visual feedback in the control of pheromone-mediated flight of Heliothis virescens males (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Neil J. Vickers, Thomas C. Baker

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27 Scopus citations


Male Heliothis virescens (F.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) were made to fly into a uniformly white and translucent tube within a large wind tunnel while responding to sex pheromone. Different visual patterns placed within the tube greatly affected the ability of the male moths to maintain upwind progress or remain oriented to the wind while in contact with the plume. Over 89% of males attempting to fly through a blank tube, lacking visual patterns, became disoriented, the males gaining or losing altitude and repeatedly hitting the sides of the tube. Patterns of 20-40 dots placed on the sides of the tube at or slightly above plume level resulted in high levels of sustained upwind flight (47-74%) relative to patterns placed directly below (30-40%), directly above (35%), or slightly below the level of the flight path (26-44%). Optimal upwind progression in pheromone-responding males occurred when image motion could be resolved both transversely (T), orthogonally to the longitudinal axis of the body relative to the horizontal plane of the environment, and longitudinally (L), along the body axis. Even very sparse patterns (single rows of dots) could elicit high levels of sustained upwind flight (53-63%) when positioned within the tube such that the males' movements would create both L and T image motion. However, successful negotiation of the tube was also unexpectedly facilitated by patterns apparently providing no horizontal transverse component for flying males but providing longitudinal flow while centering the moth in the plume through a symmetrical left-right input (4-40%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-632
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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