Small male milkweed beetles are less successful at obtaining mates than are larger males. Larger males usually win fights and prevent smaller males from obtaining mates and from choosing larger more fecund females as mates. When sex ratios are male-biased, smaller males are particularly likely to experience these mating disadvantages. It follows that smaller males should be especially responsive to their local competitive environment and behave so as to minimize the mating disadvantages of their smaller size. This paper tests the hypothesis that smaller males disperse from host plant patches with male-biased sex ratios and remain in patches with female-biased sex ratios more readily than larger males.
Results show both larger and smaller males disperse from patches with male-biased sex ratios more frequently than from patches with femalebiased sex ratios. As predicted, however, small males are more likely to disperse from patches with male-biased sex ratios and remain in patches with female-biased sex ratios than are larger males.
The data also show that smaller males dispersing from patches with male-biased sex ratios obtain more matings than non-dispersing males.
For milkweed beetles, moving between patches can be viewed as an alternative mating tactic conditional on male body size and local sex ratio.