Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 385–388 | Cite as

Polyandrous female butterflies forage for matings

  • Arja Kaitala
  • Christer Wiklund


Butterfly mating systems exhibit great variation and range from strict monandry to strong polyandry. During mating males transfer ejaculates containing both sperm and accessory substances to females. In the polyandrous green-veined white butterfly, Pieris napi (Lepidoptera, Pieridae) these ejaculates average 15% of male body mass, but can represent up to 23% of body mass for individual males. Hence, mating is costly to males, and recently mated males increase copula duration but decrease ejaculate mass transferred to females. Substances transferred to females during mating are later incorporated into female soma and reproductive tissues, and multiply mated female butterflies have higher lifetime fecundity, lay proportionately larger eggs, and live longer compared to once mated females. Here we report that females of P. napi allowed to mate at liberty with recently mated males only (i.e. males that delivered a small ejaculate) increased their lifetime number of matings compared to females allowed to mate with virgin males only (i.e. males that delivered large ejaculates), the former group mating on average 5.1 times (range 2–10) and the latter group mating on average 2.8 times (range 1–4). The lifetime fecundity of the two groups of females did not differ significantly. Because nutrient donation from males is essential for females to realize their potential fecundity, we conclude that females of the polyandrous green-veined white actively forage for matings.

Key words

Mating frequency Butterfly Ejaculate Pieris napi 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arja Kaitala
    • 1
  • Christer Wiklund
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden

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